Sunday, July 17, 2016

Week 27 - Scotland and Home

I was not happy to be leaving Shetland so took an extra long walk after breakfast - our last by the sea. We'd be heading in search of puffins before flying to back to the mainland. The puffins were in cliffs at the very southern tip of the island and were fun to watch. After having lunch in an old hotel and checking out a Norse ruin, we got on a plane and headed back. I would miss Shetland dearly and was sorry to be leaving. It only took an hour to fly back and then it was onto the bus - the same broken down, stinky, heap of a bus. They'd listened to none of our complaints! Go figure. We settled in for another crappy ride on the bus headed to Tilloch Castle where we'd be spending the night. It's the most haunted castle in Scotland, or so they say. After a dinner that had more drama due to bad communication on the part of our leader (ha!), we took the ghost tour but ducked out early since it was pushing 11:00. Again, so sad to not be in Shetland anymore.

I had haggis with my breakfast the next morning, my first since New Year's Eve 1982 unless you count the deep fried haggis balls appetizer I'd had earlier in the trip, and it was wonderful. Then it was back on the bus. Ick! It was a gray, rainy day so I guess that could have happened on a worse day. Our first stop was Loch Ness for a boat ride but our leader left us huddled in the rain without tickets so that when we finally got on the boat, we had to sit outside because all the covered seats were taken. It was cold up there! Luckily the boat stopped halfway through the hour long cruise and some people got off so we could get inside. The entire thing was a touristy waste of time. Then it was back on the bus. Are you seeing a trend here? We stopped for lunch at a cute restaurant before heading to the highlands, which were gorgeous and the only thing worthwhile all day.

The bus was always a rattle trap but it was making progressively more alarming noises as the day wore on, which was all the more troubling because in the highlands there were many places where all that separated us from a plunge down a mountain was a single guardrail. Well, we were on the outskirts of Edinburgh when a passing motorist started honking and pointing so the driver pulled over and when he did, lug nuts fell to the ground. One of the tires was 6" out from the others and was about to fall off. Yes, we were nearly a story on the evening news. You know the one - 19 knitters killed when their tour bus careened off a mountain this afternoon. WTF! We waited by the side of the road while the bus company sent a replacement bus. I should add that our leader chose the last day to make a snarky comment that left Erica near tears and me mad and stewing all afternoon. What a banner day, right! I couldn't wait to get through the farewell dinner and get packing. 

The tour was over the next morning but since Anne, Eileen Gail and I were taking a train to York, we weren't going to the airport with the rest of the group. Good thing because the driver was an hour late, leaving some people having to take a taxi to the airport rather than chance missing their flights. The tour was just getting worse with every passing minute! We happily got into a taxi and headed to the train station. We'd met some lovely people, visited gorgeous places and had lots of knitting fun but it was all despite the inept Celtic Journeys. Good riddance! We'd never be travelling with them again.

The trip to York went off without a hitch and the B&B we'd booked was perfect. We had the two rooms that were above the breakfast room so could open our two doors and have the whole floor. We had made plans to see Philip and Jean Thursday for elevenses so had Wednesday afternoon to explore. We couldn't go into the Minster so shopped - Ramshambles (the yarn shop on The Shambles) and Duttons for Buttons plus anywhere else that looked interesting, then went to Betty's for tea. Unfortunately they sat us in the basement but it was still fun. We walked back to the B&B via the Museum Gardens, where we took a break to knit on a bench then took lots of pictures of the flowers and ruins. We ate a light dinner back at the B&B and collapsed into bed exhausted. It was a long but fun day and we were happy to be on our own in York. And tomorrow we'd be seeing Philip and Jean, which is why we'd gone to York.

After breakfast, we were looking to kill some time and headed in the direction of Philip and Jean's thinking we'd check out a park. Well, we found a lovely shop - Birdie's Perch -  on the way to the park and spent an hour there, happily purchasing all kinds of fun things, and it was only a 5 minute walk to Philip and Jean's. It was so good to see them! We sat in their garden chatting over coffee and cookies for a couple of hours. It made my day to see Jean looking happy and on the mend. After a brief stop at the B&B to offload packages, we headed back to York, popping into the Minster, which was full of stands and props for a mystery play they were doing, then hit the National Trust Shop (best gift shops in the UK) and then shopped a bit before having our personal farewell dinner at Jamie's Italian. So delicious and far better than any meal we'd had on our tour. Anne and I were headed to Manchester Airport for our early flight the next morning. It was hard to believe the trip was over but I was so glad to have ended on the high note of York with Eileen and Gail and getting to see Philip and Jean. Now to get home.

The train to Manchester was uneventful and the hotel we'd booked at the airport was comfy. We were at the airport first thing ready for our flight home. We had an empty seat between us so spread out for a day of knitting and watching movies interspersed with airplane food. I watched The Big Short, Joy and The Martian, which is more movies than I've seen in the previous year. 

Unfortunately we got bad news once we landed in Newark. Our flight to Omaha had been cancelled and there was weather over Newark screwing up all the other flights. After waiting in line to rebook, they told us the best they could do was getting us to Houston with potential for standby to Omaha later that night but with a confirmed flight to Omaha Saturday morning. We had no choice but to take it and hope for the standby. Well, that didn't work out. The flight that was supposed to leave for Houston at 4:30 didn't leave until 11:00, at which point we'd been awake 22 hours! Tired doesn't begin to cover it. I was dead asleep within seconds of sitting down on the plane, never even noticing when someone sat down next to me. I got 2 solid hours of sleep and we got to Houston at 1:00 a.m. 

Despite needing to be back at the airport at 7:00, when Anne suggested waiting at the airport, I put my foot down and insisted we get a hotel. We'd done some checking from Newark and all of the hotel shuttles stopped at midnight but I pointed at the flight crew and said someone was picking them up. They said they were staying at Doubletree so we hopped the shuttle with them and Anne was a trooper, making online reservations on the bumpy ride over. It was the nicest room we'd been in and we got about 4 hours of sleep, which made it all worth it. The flight to Omaha was uneventful and Anne and I split up to head home. It had been a wonderful trip despite everything and Anne and I were perfect traveling companions. Two weeks of being together 24/7 and never a spat. I'd travel with her again anytime and will for sure.

Lori picked me up with a gallon of milk and a big bowl of fruit in her trunk then we went through BK drive through on the way home. I was home by noon, feeling pretty decent and thanks to Lori's food, I was set to stay home. I unpacked right away and started getting back to normal. It was the same on Sunday. It felt great to be home, eating regular food and hanging with my kitties. I had lots of gorgeous pictures and nice memories so it was all worth it. Now to get back to reality, by which I mean work.

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