Last night we spent repacking our suitcases. It’s amazing how much disorganization only a couple of days of traveling can result in. It probably doesn’t help that we packed tight to reduce the amount of luggage we took.
This morning we woke up bright and early, finished putting stuff away, and went down to breakfast. After breakfast we took our luggage and hiked down to the train station. We arrived a half hour early and saw that the train to Inverness didn’t have a platform yet. We went and sat down and waited about 15 min till they finally assigned it to platform: #14. Just as we were getting up, we noticed the number had changed to #16. We waited a minute more and heard a “platform change” announcement for #16 and decided it was probably safe to go.
The train seats were setup with two seats on each side with rows facing each other and tables in the middle. We shared our section with another man. As promised, the scenery was spectacular. It reminds me of a lot of Washington except more sparsely populated and with more scenic buildings. Calvin did very well on the trip and spent most of the time listening to an audio book while coloring.
The train restrooms were interesting. The doors were mechanized and required pushing a button to open. Then you went inside, pressed a D button to close and then the L button to lock (at least I think that’s how it’s suppose to work). It’s a little nerve wracking not knowing for sure how to operate the door. It doesn’t help that they have an emergency button right above all the other lettered buttons. I think they need better instructions.
We arrived at Inverness and I felt we should take another bathroom break. I wasn’t prepared for the 20p cost per person (automated with turnstiles) but fortunately Jaeger had change. The plan was to get a taxi to take us to the airport where we were to pick up the rental. However, we decided we needed to eat before doing anything too involved. We walked around the corner from the train station, with our luggage, and found Pizza Express which is a chain pizza restaurant we had eaten at in Hong Kong. We got food and had a yummy lunch.
After lunch we got a taxi to take us to the airport. We walked up to a row of taxis and managed to get the attention of the first in the line. It was harder than it sounds since she was engrossed in a book. Unlike the taxi drivers in Edinburgh, this driver was pretty talkative. I think the most useful thing we learned was that a large cruise ship is scheduled to drop about 6000 passengers tomorrow so we should avoid Loch Ness and the city center tomorrow (sounds like they are suppose to be here only one day).
The taxi driver also had an amusing story about another American tourist who had hired her for a full day once. They had spent most of the day wandering around the various sites and were currently on a fairly boring stretch of the road. The tourist fell asleep only to wake up and start screaming. It gave the taxi driver quite a start until the woman calmed down enough to stop screaming and explain that she thought they were driving in the wrong lane because they were on the left side. This has apparently made the taxi driver very wary of letting Americans fall asleep in her taxi.
We made it to the airport car rental stand and after an eternity of tapping Jaeger was issued keys to a car and a car seat. We had expected a choice between a high back or low back booster and at first glance we thought we got a high back booster. However, upon further inspection, it turned out to be a full car seat that was borderline for Calvin’s weight and with twisted straps I couldn’t figure out how to untwist. So we took it back and got a high back booster instead which proved to be satisfactory.
Fort George is really close to the airport and the roads aren’t busy so we felt that would make a good practice run. Jaeger seemed to adapt to left side driving fairly well except he had a tendency to hug the side more than I was comfortable with. It doesn’t help that the roads are narrower than I’m use to. However, we made it to Fort George unscathed.
Fort George was pretty impressive and was built using a more “modern” star design instead of old-style castles. This design works much better once cannons started being used. It has a moat and high earth walls and originally had a couple of draw bridges. You could tell we were’t in the US because they had terrifying drops off the earth walls that were nicely signed as dangerous but not fenced in anyway. I insisted Calvin hold my hand when he went near the edge, much to his disgust. The fort sticks out onto a peninsula so has very good views from most angles.
We wandered around the fort for quite a while and ended up in the Highlanders’ Museum which is all about the Highlanders’ history of serving in the armed forces. We didn’t get much time at the museum because it was closing time.
The drive to our hotel was a bit more adventurous. Most of the adventure was Google’s fault. It didn’t seem to be aware that a good number of the roads were pedestrian-only so we ended up going in a circle. Once we turned off navigation it went a little better but we still had to do one u-turn where Jaeger temporarily forgot we were in a left-lane country. Fortunately, we’ve been married long enough that he figured out what my incoherent shrieking meant before any cars appeared on the road. I had been practicing a terse, but informative, “left” if this situation arose but when it did, speech deserted me.
We did make it to the hotel and checked in. Jaeger reserved a suite at the Glen Mhor Hotel which is very nice and spacious. There’s a sofa bed in the main room which connects to a very large bathroom and a bedroom with a king bed. Weirdly, the furniture looks like it could have come from Room & Board which is the only place that has furniture Jaeger and I can agree on. In addition, the main room windows overlook the river Ness.
For supper we hiked just a couple blocks to La Tortilla which is a Spanish-style restaurant (I wasn’t ready to get back in the car yet). Jaeger and I got vegetable paella and a potato tapas with a mildly spicy sauce on top. Calvin got a “Spanish omelet” which looked more like a frittata to me. However, the name wasn’t important as he devoured it.
While I like our new accommodations, Calvin doesn’t because his bed is now in a completely different room from ours. So I’ve told him that if he falls asleep and wakes up in the middle of the night (after we’ve gone to bed), he may come sleep in our bed. It’s a king size so there theoretically should be room . . .
Jaeger’s currently working on figuring out what we’ll do tomorrow. Hopefully we’ll figure out something that skips most of the cruise ship tourists. I do feel somewhat self-conscience complaining about the tourist other potential tourists :)
For a parallel account of our fourth day in Scotland, see Star Fort.