Jaeger woke us up at the crack of dawn. Ok, not really but it felt like that to me. However, we did manage to get up and eat earlier than we had the last couple of days. Today I ordered the porridge for breakfast and then promptly Americanized it by adding sugar and dried fruit (I surreptitiously grabbed sugar cubes that were meant for tea).
After breakfast we headed out of Inverness to Aviemore to ride a steam train. With the Scottish countryside passing by, the steam from the train drifting pass our window, and the whistle at crossings I could almost hear the opening music from the BBC’s production of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.
We got back to the station around 12 and decided to eat lunch. In one of my desperate searches for vegetarian food “around” Inverness, I had stumbled across a review of a cafe in Aviemore called The Mountainside Cafe which claimed it had a good number of vegetarian options. We went in and I was impressed by the labeling. They had labels for vegetarian, dairy free, wheat free, and gluten free. They also noted that they could try to prepare food nut free but couldn’t vouch for their suppliers. They had a number of good lunch option. Jaeger and I both ordered a Red Lentil burger but I got seduced into ordering a spicy hot chocolate and a rhubarb and white chocolate scone with Cornish clotted cream. I was thinking of the scone as dessert but it came before my entree. The scone with clotted cream was wonderful. Jaeger said he could see me having an experience. The rest of the food was very good too but I kind of wished I had just ordered another scone 🙂
We took a brief detour after lunch to mail a postcard to Calvin’s classmates. On the walk back to the car I was stopped by a guy with an English accent who asked if I was a local and was quite disappointed to hear that I was not.
Once we got back to the car we drove to Cairn Gorm mountain and took the Funicular Railway up the side of the mountain. That was pretty fun. At the top there wasn’t a huge amount to do because they weren’t letting tourists out on the tundra (to avoid damaging it). We saw some impressive views and then caught the ride back down. The ride back down was very full but Calvin continued his theme of charming grandmothers from all continents and got a seat at the front so he could watch our descent.
After the mountain ride we drove about a half hour to the Highland Folk Museum. This was an absolutely fantastic place. Unfortunately we didn’t get there till 4 which didn’t leave nearly enough time prior to closing at 5:30. If I had the ability to do it over again I would have spent the entire afternoon there (guidebooks do offer suggestions but they rarely know how long Calvin’s interest can be captured). The museum covers several acres and recreates the dwellings of the highlands from the 1700s and on. The day started out rainy in Inverness but by the time we got to the museum it was fairly warm and mostly sunny.
The first thing you see when entering the grounds is a playground for children. They have the biggest tire swing I have ever seen. It was fantastic. They also had several other pieces of playground equipment (pictures to be posted later). Once I pried Calvin away from the playground we wandered down the various paths. The first building we entered was an old school where a staff member let Calvin try to write with a old pen, ink, and blotting paper. What I particularly liked about the buildings is they are fully furnished like the original owners would have.
We ended up at the little 1700 village right around closing time. As we approached one of the staff members asked Calvin where he was from. He replied “The United States” and the other staff member laughed and said the first one had guessed we were French because the French always show up at the end. The building was really interesting. Apparently the inhabitants slept 5-6 to a bed and slept sitting up. According to the guide they slept sitting up because they tended to have pretty bad breathing problems because, among other things, they didn’t have any chimneys and so the smoke just stayed in the house with the warmth. She also pointed out that what we were seeing was fairly luxurious for a normal person and a family who lived in a fine house like this was probably fairly educated and could read and write in Gaelic and English.
As we were walking down the path toward the gate we saw another couple rushing toward the cottages. Jaeger murmured “I wonder if they’re French” and, sure enough, they were definitely talking in French.
Since it was now 5:30 everything was closed. We headed off to the airport to return our car rental. I was relieved when Jaeger handed over the keys. It was really useful to have a car but slightly nerve wracking also. We got a taxi to take us back to the hotel. Our taxi driver was originally from Romania and when we got in asked us if we were English. I’m mainly amused by this because I had gotten the impression on my high school trip that Americans were easy to spot miles away because of how we dress. Apparently that isn’t the case anymore. (In case you’re wondering, I was not trying to blend in. I had my good hiking shoes, straight leg jeans (not skinny), and my REI fleece and raincoat.)
Back at the hotel we decided to go back to La Tortilla for supper. It was already 7:20 and we needed somewhere close by because we have to get up early tomorrow to catch our train for York.
I forgot to mention kind of a weird experience we had while driving to the airport to drop off our car. We were blithely driving down the rode when all of a sudden the car in front of us put their brake lights on. It was a dual carriage way so we moved over to the right lane just in time to see an entire wheel from a Porsche rolling around on the shoulder with the Porsche continuing to drive, though slowing down, on it’s rim. I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything quite like that before. Tire blowouts, yes. Tires detaching and rolling away from a car, no.