A look back at Inverness

There are many things I want to record about this trip that I am finding that I am allowing some to pass into obscurity rather than take the time to write about them. Part of being on vacation should be about the doing and not the chronicling. I am using that as my guiding principle so some things will not be mentioned.

I did want to mention our day trip to Inverness. I got it into my head that my birthday present this year would be a trip to Inverness for the afternoon (from Edinburgh) and a lunch at Sam’s restaurant (warning–link to facebook page). There was no long and intriguing story behind my desire to do this other than I wanted to go at least a little northward (as much as could reasonably be done in a day) in Scotland and the Dalmore distillery within an hour of the city. There was a time when I considered Dalmore one of the finest liquids on the planet. Thus, a tour of the distillery and a visit to the north-ish of Scotland was my desire.

The distillery was not offering tours on my chosen day or any of the days were were going to be available for touring. This left me with the somewhat simplified plan of going to Inverness for lunch. The ride in the train was spectacular. This trip began early in the morning and layers of mist and fog surrounded the journey for its length. The scenery was absolutely beyond compare. But, if I were to compare it to other scenery it would do very well, indeed. Mist, waterfalls, streams, hills, outcroppings of stone, autumn colours; it was [insert superlative here]. If the cliche about the journey becoming the destination needs proof, the morning train ride from Edinburgh to Inverness stands as evidence that at least some journeys are worthy in and of themselves.

Inverness was a fun place as well. It is relatively small and positioned on the side of a hill near a river (the River Ness the tributary of its less famous relative the Loch Ness, home of the elusive monster). The city has its share of cobblestones and small alleys and even a castle, which is being used as a courthouse. It is not open to public viewing and visiting usually means you are on one side or the other of the law.

We spent our time wandering about the city and dropped in on a tourist information centre where the kind lady took a good deal of time pointing out nearby features and potential tours of the countryside. We elected to stay in the and wander. Our first real wander was to Sam’s restaurant for a very tasty lunch at a reasonable price. Curry was had by all. After lunch we took a short walk about the city, across the river on a bouncing footbridge, walked up some long and narrow stairs, loitering in a pedestrian mall, and relaxing in a cafe / pub for a bit before heading back to the train for the trip home.

A short footnote about the cafe / pub relates to the paying of the bill. I had viewed the cafe as catering to the professional or hipster crowd and we stopped in for a dry spot (yes, it was raining again) and a warm coffee. The girls each had a drink and a scone as did Janet and I. When Janet paid our tab before leaving we were quite pleased to have it come to just under £15. Just before leaving (we were considering the complexity of tipping–the appropriateness of leaving a gratuity is vague and we usually just ask these days) the waiter came over and apologized for giving us the incorrect bill. He then proceeded to return more than half of the original bill and ask us if we thought we were being skinned. In his words “you must have figured this place thought it was pretty posh at those prices.” We left a tip.

The ride home was less impressive as it was dark when we left the station. Sunset happens very close to 4 pm these days in Inverness and the train was leaving at 4:51 pm. The good part of the nighttime ride was the date. My birthday happens to fall on bonfire night and being in the UK on this night meant bonfires (well, yeah) and fireworks shooting into the darkness. I saw fireworks three times on the trip back.

I also saw the interior of the train car for about an hour and a half more than we had bargained for because of an electrical fault in the line approximately 30 km from our destination (my estimation). The result being that only one line was running between us and Edinburgh and there were four trains ahead of us waiting to use the line and an unknown number wanting to go in the other direction using it as well. Many people were left at intermediate stations as trains heading out of Edinburgh were rerouted and these people joined our train as it inched into the city. What might have been unpleasant, and it did have some of those overtones when people realized that they would be missing connections, ended up with people chatting and dancing in the isles to iPod-ed music. Most of the dancing was by an well-dressed couple who had missed an event of some sort and, after some early complaints, made the best of their situation. One of the more romantic things I have seen (certainly under the circumstances) was an older–and here I mean not (much?) older than me–couple dressed very well dancing together on a train, each sharing an earbud from the pair plugged into a common iPod. As awkward as it may sound, it was surprisingly sweet. It is now among my visions of romance in a modern age.

We did not take any pictures of the train journey. The majority of the trip was viewed from rain-streaked windows and we spent most of the trip talking and enjoying the view. We did take a few pictures in Inverness and these are below. I believe that this birthday was the first time that I have acknowledged my bald spot. So, for me, Inverness equates to modern romance, beautiful scenery, lovely food, quaint (in a good sense) city, and hair loss.

Oh, and I almost forgot, when the lady was helping us in the tourist information shop she muttered “crivens” under her breath and this made the day even more wonderful. We have been listening and reading the Tiffany books by Terry Pratchett and one of the phrases that is used to great comedic effect by the Wee Free Men is “crivens.” Like many others, I had assumed that this was a slang, and borderline fictional, word and I would not likely hear it. But hear it I did and it was all I could do to keep a straight face. I had to look down and cough. I also heard a couple of lads talking on the train from Stranraer. One mentioned an encounter with the local law and told his mate that he and his brother “had to do an offski.” Similar context in the Tiffany books and me grinning like an idiot.

My Birthday in Belfast

Yesterday was my birthday. I got to go out with mom. We went to a tea house for tea. It was the first time since I left home that I got to have waffles. With them I got whipped cream and chocolate sauce. Then we went to look for a chocolate cheesecake. We had to get a lemon cheesecake. When we got back I got to help make supper. We had salad that I made, chicken and salmon in the salad. I had a great day

Birthday pictures

I mentioned earlier that we had some pictures from Robin’s birthday to publish and I have finally put them up on flickr.

My Birthday yesterday

A few days ago I had my birthday party. It was themed spa day, I had my two new friends over (Rose and Ellen). These are a few of the things we did, a facial, paint each other’s nails, finger soak, and a lot more it was very, very, very fun. The only downside was that Rose and Ellen had to be home by 7:30 so our time was squished a bit.

These are a few of the things that got delayed. Making smores, watching all of Ratatouille, playing at the park, foot soak, colouring pictures, and doing each other’s hair.

One of the things that we did do at my party was eat birthday cake. It was very chocolately and delicious. One problem was that it was slightly too sweet and we did not make it ourselves. When my father cut the cake, my friend Ellen started saying cake murder whenever she saw dad. At one point my mother was in the kitchen with my dad and Ellen said, “murder, nice lady, murder, nice lady” over and over again until I pulled her away so that we could go to the park.

Another thing that was too sweet for me were the smores. We made them with chocolate cookies and marshmallows. We could not find graham crackers here so we used hobnobs… they are very yummy as cookies, but too sweet for smores!

Hiding upstairs

I spent the afternoon today hiding upstairs in the bedroom. The thing that struck fear into my heart was Robin’s birthday party. The theme for the party was a do-it-yourself relaxation spa. Two young friends were invited over to do have fingernails done, facial masks (with avocado and other magical ingredients), and all of it to the sounds of relaxing piano music wafting in from the iPad.

In reality, there was a lot of giggling, a little screaming, and the ever-present threat of being forced to have a preteen girl want to paint my fingernails or slather avocado gunk on my face. I hid.

I managed to come down to cut the cake and sing “Happy Birthday”. By all accounts it was a lovely party and everybody had a good time. Robin’s actual birthday is early next week. There are some pictures that I will post as soon as I refill the bandwidth limits on the Internet stick.

Very Homesick

Today I feel homesick.

I miss my P.E.I. life. I miss my friends, house, cat, school, yard, and much more! I wish I could contact more of my friends so I wouldn’t feel so lonely for my other friends. I miss getting ready for my birthday party. I wanted to take a friend to Crystal Palace. I miss thinking up my Halloween costume so I could go out trick or treating.

One of the things that I miss the most is getting ready for my best friend’s birthday party. I even miss getting my school work at school and going to all the speciality classes. I miss getting ready to go down to the Sun-N-Shade Campground to see my grandparents. I miss not having to sleep in the same room as Sarah. I miss having Internet that works so I can play on websites. I miss not being able to call people and invite them over. I miss going to step dance. I miss going to Sylvie’s house. I miss the good resturants from PEI, mainly Tai Chi Gardens. I miss the beautiful beaches on PEI. I miss being able to talk like a Canadian and have people understand me.

So I guess after saying all of this, I generally miss Prince Edward Island.

Planning out my birthday

Today I am planning out my birthday. I am going to have my birthday in Enniscrone. If I was home I would have the Csernyiks over for a piece of cake. This can’t happen so I am going to have a party in Enniscrone. I want to watch Shrek 2, eat pizza, drink lemonade or tea, and go to Waterpoint. I also want to call the Csernyiks. As well, I want to eat popcorn and get into PJs.