Scotland 8: Day 22

3.23.20 | Glasgow, Scotland | 20:53

Today was a bittersweet feeling. Sweet because it’s always nice to be in this country that I love so much. Bitter that today is my last full day in Scotland. Also, I’m having to cut my trip short. As I mentioned in an earlier post, this was only the second phase of my three phases of vacation. The first was the week I spent with my family in Hawaii, and the third was supposed to be a trip through Europe.

My original plan was to fly south. The route was all mapped out (you know how I love to plan!). After four days in Paris, it was going to be Switzerland, spending a few days in Geneva, Zermatt (the Matterhorn!!!!), and then Lucerne. From there, it was up to Germany: Heidelberg, Fussen (Neuschwanstein Castle!!!), and the Munich. Then I was heading down to Austria: Salzburg and Vienna. Finally, the last part of this trip was set to be six days in Prague, Czech Republic.


Can you see why I’m a little bit heartbroken? I’m honestly not afraid of the coronavirus. But the problem is that every business that is not essential for survival is closed down until who-knows-when. The good news is that almost all of my Airbnbs’ and hostels’ that I had booked have given me a full refund. And the two who didn’t offer me a refund, won’t get my business when this trip happens.

Several more bucket list items would have been checked off, but these dreams will have to be realized at a future date.

I’m choosing instead to focus on the blessings that I do recognize right now. For instance, you know I l love Scotland! Half my heart is here- I plan on leaving it here, too. That way, I will always have an excuse to plan my another visit.

Scotland 8: Day 21

3.22.20 | Glasgow, Scotland | 19:45

I didn’t get a wink of sleep last night. I don’t know what it is- just couldn’t clear my head, with all of this virus nonsense going on. It’s not that I’m even worried. It’s essential to be safe and take care of yourself, but I feel that people are overreacting. I guess it’s better to be safe than sorry.

The bus system doesn’t run on Sundays on the Isle of Mull. I found out about this on Saturday night, so I had to call a taxi service to give me a ride from Tobermory to the ferry at Craignure. This cost me a whopping £50! This is pretty much highway robbery, but it was either that, or hitchhike. I’m not even sure if that’s legal in Scotland.

Pretty soon, I was off the ferry and on the train, headed back down to Glasgow. I tried to sleep on the way, but that’s worse than trying to sleep on the airplane. I gave up and read from the book, Scottish Murders. Even though reading usually relaxes me, there’s something about a murder that holds my attention.

Glasgow is like a ghost town. With everyone doing their self-quarantine as the government has asked of them, I have never seen a city so dead! It was almost spooky to walk around.

Scotland 8: Day 20

03.21.20 | Tobermory, Scotland | 19:53

I love the isle of Mull- and the town of Tobermory is such a great little spot. It feels like you’re on the edge of the world. You’re secluded from everything, but you’re with the community at the same time. This is one of the places that I would consider moving to one day.

Today I had a lovely walk. I walked to the lighthouse that is about a mile and a half from the town. It’s a fantastic trail because it’s easy to hike, and it’s wide enough to where you could safely run if you felt the need.

When I got to the lighthouse, I explored around the shore for probably about 40 minutes. I then decided it was a little bit too cold, as I forgot to grab my hat and scarf back at the house. It was 41°, but with the windchill, to me, it felt like it was below freezing.

When I got back to the town, it was just about lunchtime. I decided to walk around and see if any of the restaurants were open in the wake of this coronavirus business. I tried to get a meal at a hotel restaurant that I’ve eaten at in the past. This is a restaurant that generally lets anyone dine- they even display their menu outside to draw in hungry people. I walked in and asked the lady at the front desk if the restaurant was serving lunch. this is how the conversation went…

Me: Hi- are you guys serving lunch in the restaurant?

Lady: Unfortunately, we are not open to the public today.

Me: Oh? Is this because of the coronavirus?

Lady: Yes

Me: So if I was staying here, then I could get some lunch?

Lady: That’s correct.

Me: So, the fact that I’m staying here would mean I’m less likely to have the coronavirus?

Lady:

Me:

Lady:

Me: Ok, well I tried, have a good day.

As luck would have it, the co-op was open, so I grabbed some groceries and went back to the house to cook.

Scotland 8: Day 19

03.20.20 | Tobermory, Scotland | 21:21

Check-out time in Oban was 10:30, but they were kind enough to let me stash my bags after I’d checked out. I found some breakfast (no, I didn’t go back for another waffle, although I was tempted!) and found a place to get my haircut.

I’m impressed with this barber. He paid it so much attention to detail! He’s only had the shop open for two days, but he knows his stuff. It reminded me of the old-time Barbershops where you sit down and you’re pampered. From here on out, I should plan my Scotland trips around getting into Oban for a haircut.

I got to the ferry terminal about an hour and a half before my scheduled departure. I decided just to relax since I didn’t want to lug around this large backpack more than I have to.

The ferry ride over to Craignure was great! It’s the perfect day! The sun was out, and although it was windy on the ocean, it wasn’t so much that I had to duck inside the entire time. I put together this video of the journey.

Once you reach the ferry terminal, it’s about a 45-minute bus ride to Tobermory. I contacted my host, and she said it was okay if I decided to check in earlier because the apartment had already been cleaned and prepared for my arrival.

After settling in, I walked out to take a few pictures of the city. I planned to go and eat at the Fish Café, a great restaurant on the pier. Today was their opening day of the season, however, and so it was impossible to get a seat. Instead, I opted for takeout Chinese food.

Scotland 8: Day 18

03.19.20 | Oban, Scotland | 20:02

Today has been a good day! I woke up pretty early, found some breakfast, went to the grocery store, and then had a second breakfast. I know I sound like a hobbit, so we’ll call it an early lunch.

I had a good little walk/hike since I went up to see McCaig’s Tower. I’ve been here before, but I forgot the story behind the tower.

—–

From Wikipedia: McCaig’s Tower is a prominent tower on Battery Hill overlooking the town of Oban… It is built of Bonawe granite taken from the quarries across Airds Bay, on Loch Etive, from Muckairn, with a circumference of about 200 metres (660 ft) with two-tiers of 94 lancet arches (44 on the bottom and 50 on top).

The structure was commissioned, at a cost of £5,000 sterling by the wealthy, philanthropic banker,John Stuart McCaig.

John Stuart McCaig was his own architect. The tower was erected between 1897 and his death, aged 78 from cardiac arrest, on 29 June 1902 at John Square House in Oban.

McCaig’s intention was to provide a lasting monument to his family, and provide work for the local stonemasons during the winter months. McCaig was an admirer of Roman and Greek architecture , and had planned for an elaborate structure, based on the Colosseum in Rome. His plans allowed for a museum and art gallery with a central tower to be incorporated. Inside the central tower he planned to commission statues of himself, his siblings and their parents. His death brought an end to construction with only the outer walls completed.


This afternoon has been a little bit stressful. When I first booked this vacation, I went a little bit crazy. It started with the week in Hawaii with my family. Then after a day and a half at home, I planned this month in Scotland. Then, since enough is never enough, I booked nearly an entire month elsewhere in Europe.

As luck would have it, I had to cut off the last month, because of all the mess with the coronavirus. I had planned to go down to France, Switzerland, Germany, Czech Republic, and even back through London before coming home. These are all places now that have been devastated by this virus, and even though I’m not particularly afraid of getting sick, nothing is open to the public right now.

No big deal, I can still have a good time in Scotland. So I had to change my return flight home from April 21 to the end of next week- not a problem.

I was set to fly on Norwegian, an airline that I’ve come to love, but come to find out-they have canceled my flight home. It looks like the flights the week before and the week after have been canceled as well. So today, I had to figure out how I am going to come home. I was forced to book another flight on a different airline, but I’m not going even to put that information out just because I don’t want to jinx myself. I guess you’re just going to have to keep checking this blog to see when and if I get home at all. Maybe I’ll just start a new life here.

The lesson here: Always try to be flexible when traveling. I’m not going to let this setback get me down, but I’m going to try my best to embrace each and every day while I’m here.

Scotland 8: Day 17

03.18.20 | Oban, Scotland | 22:19

This morning was amazing mixture of at least three seasons. I woke up to rain, then the sun came out for a few moments, and then we actually had some hail!

Ahh Hail!

When I told my host, Steve, that my next destination would be Oban, he offered to give me a ride, since he had to be in Oban anyway.

I was very grateful as this saved me from having to walk the two miles back to the train station. Did I mention the three seasons we were experiencing? Steve and his wife, Sonja, are just the best people! As we parted ways, I told him that he’d more than likely see me again. They own several rental properties, including a castle somewhere near Stirling (no, not Stirling Castle).

Oban is just as wonderful as I remember. I left my bags at the hostel, and did three of my favorite things for lunch: First, I git a proper fish & chips. “Proper”, meaning they serve it to you with vinegar, salt, and on a piece of cardboard. Other places have tried to make the experience more posh, but it’s just not the same.

Fish & Chips

Second, I walked down to The Oban Chocolate Factory and got a cup of hot chocolate. They also do waffles, so I’ll hit then up again soon.

And finally, I got a milkshake at Cuan Mor. Think “Black Tap” in New York City and the scale it down a bit. I figured I’d hit all my must-haves today and reach for something healthier tomorrow. Well, once I have my waffle, that is.

I might as well get all my favorites out of the way, so I can start eating healthy- yeah right!

Scotland 7: Day 16

03.17.20 | Dalmally, Scotland | 19:26

When I checked the weather report last night, it’s threatened to rain all day. When I woke up, however, it was only partly cloudy. I decided to take advantage of the fact and go for a long walk. I think I did about 4 miles in all.

There’s an old road that runs right in front of this Airbnb. It used to be the main road but hasn’t been kept up in years. My host tells me that this road has been around since the 1700s. It was a beautiful, although muddy walk. I managed to make it down to Loch Awe.

Loch Awe

I got back to the place just as the rain was starting. The rest of the day was spent inside, reading, listening to music and podcasts, and packing up for my next stop which happens tomorrow.

Scotland 8: Day 15

03.16.20 | Dalmally, Scotland | 22:03

I’ve been watching the Coronavirus numbers rise from http://ncov2019.live. At least I’m going north. Maybe the virus will ignore the north for a few more days. I’ve already adjusted my trip a couple of times, and when though I was supposed to have a go in Europe, I’m now sticking to the U.K. Two more weeks is all I ask! Maybe I’m flirting with danger? On to happier things!

This morning I said goodbye to Dicky and Drew and caught the 10:33 train out of Glasgow. I wanted to spend some more time in the Highlands. Dalmally is one of the towns that I’ve always wanted to see. So here I am, about two miles outside the city.

I’d love to call this land home!

Stay Here!

I found what is referred to as a “glamping pod” on Airbnb, which is another way of saying that they are not going to provide Wi-Fi. Staying in this little pod is somewhat like I imagine it would be to live like a hobbit. It’s a small, intimate setting, miles from the nearest street light. No Wi-Fi is needed, however. Thanks again to my Skyroam. It’s a great setup!

Tonight I have stayed in, listening to the rain hit the roof of my little hobbit hole. It’s quite relaxing, but I am hoping that tomorrow brings at least some sunshine. There is a nearby road and a barn that I would love to explore if possible.

Scotland 8: Day 14

03.15.20 | Glasgow, Scotland |

When I woke this morning, I had a message from my friend James. He informed me that they had added the U.K. to the banned travel countries, and he asked me how I planned on getting back home. Upon further research, I discovered that they will still allow US citizens to come back home, even during the ban.

With all the virus doom and gloom, I’m just going to hope for the best. But I’m still going to do my best to enjoy my time while I’m here. It always feels great to travel!

When I’m out and about in the morning, I love to smile and tell random strangers, “Good Morning!” Nobody is ever expecting it, and most people respond in kind. Nobody expects it either. It’s brilliant!

I decided to take a day-trip up to Balloch, which is the closest station to Loch Lomond, and nature is probably one of my most intimate connections to God that I have felt. Add a spiritual thought or music to the mix, and that is something that I need!

When we boarded the boat, they made us all use hand sanitizer. I wasn’t planning on touching anyone, but now I just may have to, since we’re all “safe” from the virus.

My time on the boat was terrific. My only complaint is how loud the passengers onboard were. They were pretty rude and inconsiderate, too.

I did get some good video of the beautiful Loch. I have put it together for you and dubbed in Peter Hollens’ version of Loch Lomond. Enjoy!

The Bonnie Banks of Loch Lomond

Scotland 8: Day 13

03.14.20 | Glasgow, Scotland | 19:00

It cost me £14 to get an Uber one-way to Apple Braehead. Apple Buchanan Street is only a few blocks from me, but they are the more popular destination and had no appointments today. So I get to the store, and five employees are standing on the doorway.

“Didn’t you get the email?” I tell them I didn’t and knew precisely where this is going. It’s this ridiculous over protection from the Coronavirus. They have closed their doors. This is ridiculous and stupid. Can you guys please plan your absurd apocalypse practice for a time when I’m not on vacation? Is that too much to ask?

The only good thing about this is the fact that I grabbed half a dozen Krispy Kreme donuts while I was waiting for my Uber back to the flat. I guess every cloud has a silver lining? I’m trying to make myself believe this very thing.

Other than the death of my computer and the stupid coronavirus, today was pretty good. I got an excellent walk all around the city, and I was even able to go shopping for some new socks.

Glasgow

I considered going out tonight and finding some music, but it is raining, and so I am tempted to stay in and possibly watch a movie on my phone. We shall see what happens.