Award Winning Author
Di & Berny's Excellent Scottish Adventure
Narrated by Berny
Diana and I have returned safe and sound from our little adventure. We left Scotland intact and without any international incidents, although we might have damaged the reputation of Americans a wee bit. We can only hope we didn't leave them with the impression that all Americans are
as scatterbrained and silly as we are.
We had the most wonderful time visiting castles and meeting some of our chat room buddies. We want to share some of our experiences with you.
Unfortunately, you're stuck with me, Berny, as the narrator, since Di is freshly inspired and busily cranking out pages for her latest novel. I make no claims to any writing ability, but I'll do my best to relate our tale.
December 8th: (Tuesday) Our First Meeting.
Diana and I decided we should fly to Scotland together so neither of us would have to make the long trip across the pond alone. We were also worried about finding one another in a foreign airport. A valid concern, seeing as how we'd been chat room and phone buddies for over a year, but never met "in person." We exchanged photos to help identify one another.
She flew to St. Louis, where we met for the very first time. We were both a bit nervous - either this was going to be a wonderful adventure...or the longest damn week of our lives. Knowing that people don't always resemble their photos, we gave additional information "just in case." Forewarned, Diana quickly recognized me when she spotted three little tow-headed girls causing a riot around a haggard momma. And I easily spotted her...when she finally stood up from kissing the airport floor and I could see her face.
We hit it off immediately, and in spite of our best intentions to retire early and get a good night's sleep before our trip, we stayed up most of the night chattering away.
December 9th: (Wednesday) Oh God, The Plane!
The next morning wasn't nearly as pleasant as the night before. Unfortunately, both Di and I have a horrendous fear of flying. Luckily, we each had our own bathroom where we spent a good portion of the morning until we left for the airport. Our intense fear was an obstacle easily overcome via prescription tranquilizers, and we took full advantage of the little blue pills right before we left. We arrived at the airport happily and heavily medicated, and headed with confidence - albeit a tad sluggishly - toward our gate.
We only encountered two problems before we boarded. First, the medication sometimes causes you to see double, and when we exchanged currency, we thought we got twice as much as we actually did. Secondly, our medication-induced confidence vanished the second they called our flight number. We found staggering down the loading plank toting fifty pounds of carry-on luggage while having a panic attack quite challenging.
We made it aboard with assistance from four of the flight attendants and found our seats. After memorizing the emergency card in the pouch in front of us, and crawling under our seats to assure ourselves there were indeed lifejackets there, we settled back and awaited takeoff. Not wanting to be caught unprepared, we also made plans to steal the life jackets from beneath all the unoccupied seats so we could build a makeshift raft in the event of a watery landing.
I attempted to distract myself by looking out the window and found this to be a huge mistake. We were seated over the wing, where every bolt was easily seen. To my dismay, I spotted one that seemed to be coming loose! Of course I had to immediately point this out to Diana, who crawled over me to look for herself. She spotted the offending bolt and lost all color in her face. We both grabbed our barf bags and began hyperventilating into them. Looking around, we discovered our terrified expressions mirrored by the passengers sitting near us...and they hadn't even spotted the loose bolt.
After a muffled discussion, we assured ourselves that one tiny bolt couldn't possibly cause the entire plane to fall apart, but agreed to take shifts to watch the wing anyway. This bad habit of pointing out potential structural defects continued throughout the trip. Right before takeoff or landing, one of us would invariably say something that terrified the other. Not purposely, mind you, but unsettling all the same.
The engines kicked on, and we both jumped. We would have banged our heads on the ceiling if we hadn't had our seatbelts fastened strangulatingly tight. After several minutes, we became accustomed to the noise and began to relax. My eyes were glued to the bolt, but a loud sniffing sound had me turning to Di.
"Do you smell gas?" she asked. I began to sniff. I did smell gas! When they saw us sniffing, the other passengers started sniffing too. The domino effect seemed to be taking place, because by the time we taxied out to the runway our section of the plane was sucking in the air supply at an alarming rate. The attendants didn't seem to smell anything. They continued to busily stuff too-large baggage into the too-small overhead compartments. Suddenly, we detected a sweet fragrance. We decided they must know about the smell since they were trying to cover it up, and relaxed a little.
We survived the initial takeoff and settled back for a long, (thankfully) uneventful ride. Diana's meds ended up being a dud and she was unable to fall asleep. Mine, on the other hand, worked wonderfully. I snored contentedly across the Atlantic Ocean, leaving a river of drool down Di's left sleeve, since I was using her shoulder as a headrest.
December 10th: (Thursday) The Gratifying Feel of Soil Beneath Our Feet.
We landed at Aberdeen Airport unscathed. A short "discussion" ensued about who would be the first to attempt a verbal exchange in this foreign land. Diana lost and had to place a call to the hotel to request a shuttle. We were delighted when we were deposited in front of the "correct" hotel, lending confidence in our ability to communicate clearly.
By the time we got into our room it was nearly 9:00 p.m. We didn't feel up to hitting the town and collapsed into comas...until midnight, when our internal clocks violently collided with Scotland time. Being the dauntless souls that we are, we made the best of the situation and attacked our munchie stash. Pleasantly stuffed, we crawled back into our beds and fell into a sound sleep.
December 11th: (Friday) Driver's Education.
The alarm clock was set for 7:00 a.m., but failed to go off. We awoke at 9:00 a.m. to find ourselves already two hours behind for our first leg of "The Castle Trail". However, we were confident we could make up the difference by spending a little less time at each stop.
It was at this point in our trip when I discovered that Di is not exactly what you'd call a morning person. I was showered, dressed, and on my second cup of coffee by the time she finally rolled out of bed. Rather than sit around and twiddle my thumbs I decided to secure the rental car while she made herself presentable.
After reviewing and re-reviewing the car controls with me, the rental agent reluctantly handed over the keys and mumbled something about insurance under his breath as he walked away. Just like when I'd boarded the plane, my stomach did several flip-flops as I slid behind the wheel and attempted to move the car closer to the door so we could load our luggage. It was less than a hundred yards, but my hands were sweating and shaky by the time I pulled into the parking space. Not accustomed to sitting on the right side while driving, I misjudged the distance and found I couldn't get out, because I'd parked too close to the car next to me. I began to wonder what the hell I thought I was doing.
I repositioned the car and returned to the room where I found Diana just about ready. We headed outside, dragging our hefty luggage behind. The car only dropped twelve inches after placing our possessions in the trunk. Pleased, I turned to Di triumphantly. It didn't boost my confidence one iota to find her on her knees confessing her sins and begging for divine intervention.
Taking our bravado in both hands, we headed toward Stonehaven to see Dunnottar Castle. We had to drive through downtown Aberdeen, which was a feat in and of itself. Diana conveniently forgot to inform me she was the world's worst navigator. Every time I asked her which way to turn, she replied, "I don't see it on the map."
We would have done passably well in spite of Di's map impairment...if not for the blasted "roundaboots". Maxxy had tried to warn us about these, but I had arrogantly assumed they were something we had in the States and could easily manage. We doubted very much all that honking was flirtatious responses to our beauty, but we couldn't for the life of us figure out what we were doing wrong.
As we approached the first one, we began speaking in cryptic phrases that ended up sounding like Laurel and Hardy. "Which way do I go? Left?"
"Right left or right right? Oh God, tell me quick, here comes another one!"
Still no closer to figuring out the yielding thing after six more encounters with "the donuts", we left the city behind. We believed we were in a more manageable part of the country and began to relax and enjoy the scenery. However, the farther we drove from the city, the more problems we encountered. Diana began frantically tearing through the glove compartment for instructions on what to do when a two-lane road suddenly turned into a one-lane road and another car was heading in our direction. Not finding anything of use in the glove compartment, we did the only sensible thing: we stopped and closed our eyes until the other car squeaked past. We found this worked rather well with the next ten approaching cars, and decided to stick to this method.
We only had to stop three times to ask directions, and finally pulled into the Dunnottar Castle parking lot. We exited the car as if it were plagued with some nasty disease and turned our attention to the breath-taking castle...a half mile away. Di, whose idea of exercise is hunting down a great bargain at the mall, groaned at the prospect of such a lengthy walk. It wasn't until we reached the end of the path that we discovered the walk was the easy part. Our jaws dropped at the sight of 9,067 stair steps leading straight down, followed by a steep "sheep path" climb up the mountain. Due to our "athletic differences", we agreed to proceed at our individual paces. I ventured on, taking two steps at a time, while Diana made her way down one careful step after the other.
To me, Donnottar would be the most impressive castle we visited. The view of the cliffs from the castle wall took my breath away. I wandered around in awe for a good half hour, daydreaming and venturing into each nook and cranny. Content with my findings, I made my way back to the castle entrance...only to see the pitiful sight of Diana braced against the gate, her eyes rolled back in her head and wheezing breathlessly. I vigorously fanned her for ten minutes before she could utter her first words. Since this is a 'G' rated account, lets just say she expressed her delight at finally making it.
I sat back on one of the stone walls and relaxed while Di strolled the grounds and shot three rolls of film. When she loaded the fourth roll, I began to wonder if she really wasn't trying to delay the return trip to the car. I suggested we get moving, we still had a lot of time to make up. Her plea to spend the night on the cold castle floor wasn't received too well, and I gently persuaded her to begin the descent with the threat that I had the keys and would leave her to rot.
With one castle down and five more on our list for the day, we continued on. Diana had a difficult time accepting that many of the castles were closed this time of year, and I found myself continually prying her off locked gates and tugging her down from castle walls as she tried to scale them.
Unfortunately, we only managed two more castles before dusk. Our itinerary didn't take into account that in December in Scotland it gets dark at 3:00 p.m. Getting lost six times also significantly impacted our schedule.
Not wishing to endanger the locals by driving after dark, we opted to proceed to Kildrummy Castle Hotel, where we planned to spend the night. We might have made it before dark, too, if we hadn't had to stop every ten minutes to check for damages. I was still having a difficult time judging the space I had on each side of the car. Fortunately, there was no permanent damage done...though the owners of the cars parked on the side of the street probably weren't thrilled about having to reopen the side view mirrors I folded back as
we drove by.
As we drove up the winding road and the elegant castle hotel finally came into view, we both sighed in relief.
The hostess who greeted us pasted on a frozen smile when her gaze rested on the sorry sight we presented. She rapidly ushered us to our room and we followed, tromping up the ornate carved staircase in our muddy boots and wet jeans. Eager to make a better impression, we set out to repair the day's damage.
Forty-five minutes later, we made our way downstairs to the library, where a crackling fire welcomed us. We fell into the plush Victorian chairs and the tension of the day began to drain away. The hostess entered to offer cocktails before dinner and was hard-pressed to disguise her relief when she discovered we cleaned up pretty well. After a wonderful dinner and a nightcap in the drawing room, we retired for the night.
December 12th: (Saturday) Get Me To The Train On Time.
While Diana finished her morning routine, I went down to the library with a cup of coffee, intending to relax and watch the dawn sky through the
big bay window. As the sun slowly rose, a faint image took shape in the mist. The image became clearer with the light, and I realized what I was seeing. I leapt from my chair and rushed up the steps, threw open the door, and without a word dragged an unsuspecting Di down the stairs and out into the frosty morning. She turned to ask what on earth I was doing, and caught sight of the reason for my excitement. We both stood speechless, each lost in our own thoughts as the pink light of dawn slowly illuminated what was once the home of Robert the Bruce, King of Scotland.
Kildrummy Castle ruins at dawn - photo by Di
We couldn't wait to investigate the ruins close-up, so we went back inside and hastily broke our fast with a most unusual breakfast, which included an interesting dish called black pudding. Then we made our way to the broken stone structure. Diana kept whispering to herself over and over in awe, "Robert the Bruce walked here." The sign above her head which declared "The Latrine", made me think otherwise.
We still had a full day ahead of us, so we reluctantly returned to the hotel and packed. The hostess from the night before was so helpful. She personally carried both of our suitcases down to the car and with an ear-to-ear grin waved enthusiastically as we drove away.
We made it to Huntly Castle after only three wrong turns, quite pleased with ourselves. We had two castles on our list, but after our experience the day before, we knew we'd never make our destination before dark. We decided to head straight back to Aberdeen where we would catch the train to Glasgow. I've never been so happy in my life as when I handed the car keys back to the rental agent. After a quick scan of the vehicle, he seemed to be quite happy also.
We grabbed a taxi to the train station and tried to make sense of the arrival and departure schedules. Finally determining where to stand to catch our train, we waited patiently. Only by sheer luck did we manage to overhear a "minor" tidbit of information. Apparently, the train split in half when it reached Dundee. The front half went to Glasgow and the back half to Edinburgh. If we hadn't been soaking in the dreamy accents with shameless eavesdropping, we would never have known that, and would have found ourselves wandering around Edinburgh looking for our hotel in Glasgow!
Thank goodness we managed to arrive in the correct city, and took another taxi from the train station to our hotel. We loved taking taxis in Scotland. The drivers were so friendly and helpful, and patiently answered the multitude of questions we threw at them. I did notice, however, that the more questions we asked, the faster they drove. Coincidence, I suspect.
We reached our hotel and discovered to our dismay that we somehow had to maneuver our luggage up ten steps to the door. So we did what any self-respecting adult would do when faced with an impossible challenge...we whined. This didn't get us any closer to the door, so we decided to combine our efforts and carry up one piece at a time. Sweaty and panting, but mission accomplished, we patted ourselves on the back for a job well done.
You can imagine our hysterics when we tried the knob and found ourselves locked out! Having never encountered a locked door on a hotel before, we panicked. We were just about to drop kick our luggage back down the stairs and hit the pavement in search of an unlocked hotel, when Di discovered a doorbell. We pushed the button, then smashed our faces expectantly against the window in hopes of seeing some movement inside.
To our relief, we were let in and directed to the "lift", where we would be carried to the third floor. A lift? An image of a warehouse forklift came to mind, but by this time, we were willing to be lugged up by a rope if need be to avoid tackling three flights of stairs with our luggage. When we found the "lift" we discovered another cross-cultural word difference. Lift = elevator. Whew!
To say we were exhausted by this time would be severely understating it. But since we missed a lot of meals because we were so enraptured by the scenery we forgot to stop and eat, we decided it was prudent to go to dinner. Tired, and not wanting to deal with the menu translation, we ordered steak pie and potatoes. That sounded pretty straight forward, but when the waitress came to take our order I was brought nearly to tears over how I wanted my potatoes. She kept asking if I wanted chips or bold potatoes. I didn't have a clue what "bold potatoes" were and I didn't want potato chips, so I looked to Diana for help. She translated "chips = french fries".
Ah, fine, I knew what those were. Di was more adventurous, she ordered the bold potatoes. When the waitress delivered our food, I realized she'd been saying "boiled" not "bold" potatoes, and though I would have preferred boiled potatoes over french fries, I was too stressed over ordering to care. At any rate, the meal was delicious and we went to bed with happy bellies.
December 13th: (Sunday) Over The River And Through The Woods.
We woke early, eagerly anticipating our trip to Lachlan Castle that Bambam had so graciously - and unsuspectingly - offered to take us on. Though it was somewhat risky going off with a man we'd never met in person, we agreed that if he tried anything funny, between the two of us we could take him. At 10:00 a.m. sharp, we received a call from the front desk announcing his arrival. It took us a moment to realize our visitor was Bambam, since he gave his real name instead of his chat name. I suppose he thought he'd get a strange look from the receptionist if he claimed he was a cartoon character.
We were a wee bit nervous as we made our way to the front desk, but our awkwardness vanished when we saw he was bearing gifts!
Since Lachlan Castle is the setting for pivotal scenes in Diana's novel SWORD OF THE RAVEN, she was especially excited to go there. It was a lovely two-hour drive, and Bambam thoughtfully took us on the scenic route, allowing us to see beautiful waterfalls and breathtaking vistas. We would have arrived sooner if Di hadn't made him stop every fifteen minutes to take pictures, but Bambam obliged, and we even made it before dark.
The dismay on Diana's face was indescribable as we approached. It appeared there was no way to get to the castle without swimming the loch. Her dismay quickly changed to determination, and Bambam and I panicked when she turned to us and said, "Just how deep do you think it is?"
My only thought at the time was Oh my God, she's going to swim it, and I have to go with her.
With his wits sharpened by desperation, Bambam prudently suggested we get back in the car and drive around to see if there was another way. Much to our relief, we met a man who gave us an alternative route. Though it would be a challenging hike, it was much more appealing than swimming a Scottish loch in December! So, we set out.
Across a sheep pasture, over a barbed wire fence, and up a steep, muddy trail, we made our way toward the castle. For a city girl, Di did amazingly well meeting the challenges of getting there. Her determination to reach Lachlan Castle transformed her from the wimpy woman I went to Dunnottar Castle with only a few days earlier.
Without looking back, she scurried up the rocky hillside with little thought to safety. We called out for her to wait for us, but she didn't seem to hear; she kept right on climbing. Bambam and I finally caught up with her inside the castle, where she was barging into chambers you wouldn't catch me dead in for fear of spiders and mice. This didn't deter her; she intended to see every crevice of her hero's home, regardless of the creepy crawly creatures that may have taken up residence there.
Loch Lomond at twilight - photo by Di
We stopped for dinner, then headed back to the hotel. The ever-considerate Bambam once again took the scenic route, and drove us all through Glasgow to see the Christmas decorations before depositing us in front of our hotel. Bambam provided us with such a wonderful day. He endured our peculiarities with stoic good cheer, and we found him to be the most charming guide we could have possibly had. We reluctantly said our good-byes before making our way to our room.
We had thirty minutes to clean up from our adventurous day before we were to meet Dancin' Man, Chandy and Eoin in the hotel bar. We managed the feat with an impressive five minutes to spare. Dancin' Man was already there when we arrived, sparing us the embarrassment of interrogating every guy who walked through the door. Chandy and Eoin entered right behind us and we all sat down to get acquainted.
Right away we noticed a difference between the Glasgow and Aberdeen accents. Finding the Glasgow accents much more difficult to understand, we leaned forward and intently watched their lips, trying to make out what they were saying. As the guys noticed the daft, bewildered expressions on our faces, they considerately began speaking slowly and distinctly. I knew that our feeble attempt at making a good impression was hopeless the moment my eyes met those of the patron sitting in the next booth. Observing our slow exchange, he granted us a smile reserved only for the simple-minded.
Language barriers aside, we had a lovely evening and we parted even more enchanted with the folks from Scotland than before.
December 14th: (Monday) Shop Till Ya Drop.
The next morning, we once again headed for the train station. Our next stop: Stirling. We were wise to the train situation by now, and discreetly inquired if it would do that "split thing" again. Assured that the train would remain intact, we boarded and headed on our merry little way.
We were informed that our hotel was only a five-minute walk from the station and briefly considered making the stroll on foot. However, our luggage was gaining weight at an alarming rate, and we opted for a taxi instead. We were so glad, because it seems the Scots walk much faster than we do.
It takes me at least a good hour to walk three miles.
We arrived at the hotel only to be greeted by another set of ten steps leading to the entrance. Mindful of the previous hotel, I sent Diana ahead to check if the door was open before attempting the climb. The receptionist blinked in surprise as we fell through the front door. She allowed us a few moments to recover before inquiring how many weeks we'd be staying. I didn't think we had that much luggage!
We filled out the necessary paperwork and were then give a set of keys bolted to a three-foot piece of 2x4. No chance of losing that sucker! She directed us around the corner, so we grabbed our suitcases and headed forward. Turning the corner, we found a beautiful spiral staircase which rose so high we lost sight of the top. We began looking for the lift, to no avail. We returned to ask the receptionist, who informed us there was no lift!! We knew we'd prefer sleeping on the bar to dragging our luggage up three flights of stairs. Fortunately, she offered to call someone to carry our baggage, and we were quick to accept.
I entered our room with visions of a long, hot soak in a steaming bubble bath dancing in front of my tired eyes. But Di had other ideas. As we'd driven to our hotel, she'd spotted a long row of shops, not two blocks away. That same glassy-eyed stare she'd had at Lachlan Castle returned to her face, and I knew persuading her to rest was useless. Without taking time to unpack, she dragged me down the street toward the shops.
Di was now in her element. I was sweaty and panting trying to keep up with her. I've never seen anything like it before in my life! She is a shopping maniac! At neck-breaking speed, we hit each and every store...twice!! Our shopping systems differ dramatically. My idea of shopping consists of knowing what you want, going to where you think it will be, spotting it, buying it and leaving. Her idea of shopping is having no idea what she wants, but she'll "know" when she sees it. When she sees something she likes, she doesn't actually buy it. She has to go to a thousand other stores to see if she can find it cheaper, or find something she likes even better. Then, after turning into every structure that has a door, she returns to the first shop that had what she liked to begin with.
She frequently and thoughtfully turned to me to inquire, "Are you all right?" But I believe this was merely a courtesy, as I translated it to mean, C'mon, move it, move it!
With our arms loaded high, we returned to the hotel. We didn't concern ourselves with how we would manage to get all this stuff into our luggage at the moment, but decided to deal with it when the time came. We dropped our purchases on the bed and headed out again. Our destination: The Wallace Monument.
The weather had been incredibly beautiful up to this point, but as we approached the monument it began to rain. The man in the gift shop asked if we preferred to walk or take the shuttle. Although I had an umbrella, we didn't think seventy-five pence was an exorbitant amount to avoid getting drenched. We knew we'd made the right decision when we stepped out of the bus and were nearly swept off our feet by the hundred-mph winds!
We climbed the two hundred forty-six steps, up two hundred twenty feet high. Wallace's sword was hanging in a glass case against the far wall, and Diana sprinted toward it to get a closer look. Good grief the sword was bigger than us! I sure wouldn't want to meet the man who could wield this weapon in a dark alley...but Di said she wouldn't mind.
After oogling the sword, we made our way to the gift shop where I saw, I bought, and I was done. Di, who looked to be taking up permanent residence, set out in search of the perfect gift. She began to pick up each and every item and hold it up to the light (for who knows what reason). Knowing she'd be a while, I decided go outside and take in the magnificent view from the tower.
Feeling smugly prepared, I opened my umbrella before I stepped out into the rain. My arm was nearly ripped from my socket the moment the wind caught my umbrella! I often wondered why umbrellas had those joints midway up the spikes...now I understood. When the wind caught it,
I would have been swept to Amsterdam if it hadn't turned inside out. A very nice man help me wrestle the vicious monster closed. I returned to the gift shop panting and looking like a drowned rat. Diana, barely noticing, suggested I stay inside. "It's a little windy out today, ya know."
December 15th: (Tuesday) A Jaunt Up A "Little" Hill.
We woke refreshed for the first time since coming to Scotland. Our bodies were finally on Scotland time, and we'd managed to sleep the entire night.
We'd been told that Stirling Castle was a ten-minute walk from the hotel. I was a little hesitant, thinking this translated to six miles, but Di didn't hesitate for a moment. She knew in order to get to the castle, we'd have to pass all the shops we'd visited the day before.
She managed very well...until we left the stores behind. Only halfway up the steep incline, she began to question just how badly she wanted to see the castle. She would have given up and turned around if not for my promise of "A Wonderful Gift Shop" that awaited us up top. Much like Rocky, I climbed the hundred plus steps to the entrance, and then took a short nap while I waited for Diana.
We joined a small tour group, but to this day we can't relate what was said. We were too entranced by the guide's rugged good looks and Scottish accent to pay any attention! Stirling Castle was very impressive, and we roamed unescorted for nearly an hour before checking out the gift shop. We spent another hour and a half there.
We returned to the hotel, checked out, and headed to the train station one last time. We arrived in Aberdeen by dark and took a taxi to our hotel. Thoroughly exhausted, we decided to stay in for the night and order room service.
December 16th: (Wednesday) Who Said, "There's No Place Like Home?"
We both awoke a wee bit melancholy, knowing this was our last day in this magical place. We unenthusiastically sat on each other's luggage while trying to cram all our belongings inside. We'd hoped by leaving selected possessions in each hotel we'd have sufficient room, but found our calculations were way off. Diana broke a zipper on her suitcase and when I picked up my carry-on, I broke two straps.
We made our way to the airport "undrugged". We were supposed to meet Rebo in Amsterdam, a short hop away, and didn't think we'd get through customs if we came staggering down the aisle. Di was particularly concerned about customs, but I assured her I'd traveled out of the country numerous times and had never been stopped. So you can imagine my surprise when I turned to discover her being frisked by the customs agent. Since we were well ahead of schedule, I wasn't bothered when she asked him to do it again.
After the frisking, she was proceeded to the next station where the customs agent went through her carry-on. Big mistake! He looked over his shoulder for reinforcements when he couldn't figure out how to get it all back in! It had taken Diana nearly two careful hours the night before to jam-pack all her souvenirs inside, and his inept attempts to close the zipper with three feet of items still hanging out sent us into fits of amusement. He was a nervous wreck by the time he was done, and Di's constant badgering of "be careful of my china!" made him mightily regret his decision of ever becoming a customs agent.
Stomachs churning, we boarded the plane. We started our ritual of pointing out the structural flaws before taking off, but managed the two-hour flight to Amsterdam without casualties.
With our nerves stretched tight, we made our way through customs to meet Rebo. Neither one of us had a clue where we were supposed to meet him, so we wandered aimlessly through the airport. He spotted us (we forgot to ask how he knew it was us), and greeted us with the customary "three kisses." We went to the lounge to get acquainted over coffee. We were so touched when we discovered he'd driven an hour and a half to the airport just to meet us. Unfortunately, we could only spend an hour together before we had to catch our next flight. He gallantly offered to carry our carry-ons to the customs counter, an offer I'm sure he regretted. We promised to send money to pay the doctor bills for his pulled back and hernia. We received the "three kisses" in farewell, and said adieu to our new friend.
We medicated ourselves heavily before getting back on the plane. Tears streamed down our faces as we said farewell to the country and people we'd grown to love in such a short time. Before we knew it, we found ourselves delivered safe and sound to St. Louis.
It was the most wonderful trip I have ever taken, and I can't think of anyone I would have enjoyed going with more than Diana. She kept me in stitches the entire time, finding humor in the little obstacles we encountered along the way.
For those of you who plan a trip across the pond in the near future, you'll be happy to know we left Scotland still standing, and in once piece, though a bit more waterlogged from the tears we shed leaving.
And they lived happily ever after.