I know, I'm really behind... this is our first driving experience! Don't laugh too hard, okay?
July 11, 2009
Today was the day we were dreading – renting the car. In order to do that, however, we needed to get to Perth via train. We said our goodbyes to Martin, thanking him for his assistance and jumped into the waiting cab. We got there in plenty of time, boarding the train and making our way through another portion of the beautiful Scottish countryside. Looking out the window, I watched the quilted landscapes of green and yellow fly by, sewn together with bunches of trees, shading the lazy sheep. It just never ends; the beauty of this country.
We arrived at Perth wondering at how to get the hell out of the stations without killing ourselves on the luggage. Two very sweet Scottish boys offered their assistance. They were going to the “Tea in the Park” music festival being held just outside of Perth. Apparently, there are something like 200,000 people attending (we did see a snippet on the news and it seems that’s an accurate count). Their hospitality was very becoming and we thanked them as we found our way to the door.
The moment of truth arrived – we walked into Enterprise, only to find that they did not have a GPS available for rent. Not a happy way to start this adventure…
Panic immediately set in as the papers were signed and we climbed into the vehicle. We tried to arrange all our items into the car so we didn’t look too touristy. No chance. Finally after we couldn’t avoid it any longer, we set off towards Tesco, the local grocery store, for items for the cottage. And while there at the advice of the Enterprise employee (but he’d deny it if he were caught), we picked up a GPS. He said they have a 30 day policy if you don’t like something you purchased there, you can return it. Not that he was saying anything.
So, with Wendy’s perfect guidance, she told me to stay to the left, passenger side to the curb. Follow the round-about to the left then go straight. Keep going forward. Remember to stay to the left. Turn right into Tesco, driving past the island and following the cars going through the parking lot. Then I had to park, which turned out to be extremely stressful. Back and forth, left and right. Finally, I just backed up and went across the way.
I’m a HUGE fan of grocery stores, so wandering in a foreign country is amazing to me. And more than that, I wasn’t driving, which was a huge bonus. We gathered all sorts of fun things to eat and drink at our cabin. I stalled as long as I could but it was inevitable… we had to drive again. Feeling a little more relaxed, I sat back in the driver’s seat and ate lunch with Wendy, contemplating what do to and how to work the damn GPS we’d just purchased. We didn’t have an address for the Tesco in Perth, so we just wrote Perth as our starting point, wanting to end up at Glencoe where our cabin was. That was our first mistake, and then it just went downhill from there.
Making our way out of the parking lot, Wendy and I seemed a bit distracted and I headed left into oncoming traffic sitting at the light. Luckily, I noticed that they were sitting there (I’d have to be daft NOT to see them) and not moving – which was fantastic – and I quickly veered back into the left lane freaking out as I hit yet another round-about. As if that wasn’t bad enough, the GPS took me into the center of Perth because we didn’t give it appropriate directions. We were like the Griswalds, heading around in circles as we cruised through the lovely town. However, there were a TON of round-abouts and I could feel myself freaking out. Wendy was an excellent navigator and talked me through each and every turn. She held it together better than I did and finally we were able to just make a decision to get the hell out of downtown and onto A85 to head towards Glencoe.
Part of the point of this driving thing was to go to Crieff, where Ewan grew up. We’d wanted to go see ‘The Knock’ at the suggestion of our plane-mate from London to Edinburgh which apparently boasts the most beautiful views of the city. They also have distillery that we’d like to visit. The roads were narrow and scary, especially having to drive the wrong way. Cars come at you like midges (more on them tomorrow) as you try to avoid them like the plague but it just can’t be done. So, the inevitable happened – I hit a car. At least I think I did. I know I hit something with my mirror. We tried to get back to the spot but ended up getting lost. In my defense (and Wendy’s as well) the damn streets are really narrow and when you have cars on every side of you, parking however the hell they want, it’s pretty hard NOT to hit something
So, that was the end of my driving experience; Wendy took over and we continued on. It was her first time behind the wheel and she was as scared as I was. You have to navigate how far you are from the middle, how far you are from the dipping curve. Driving here is NOT relaxing in the slightest. There is so much incredible scenery at every glance, and you’re holding on for dear life with the fear of getting hit, hitting something or dropping off the road in one shape or another.
We drove a bit more and got to the town of Comrie where Wendy’s depth perception got the best of her. She hit a mirror as well, but this time our left hand mirror cracked, pushing itself closer to the window like an injured bird. The problem was that Wendy panicked and couldn’t stop. We finally found a place to pull over and turn around, looking for the wayward car that we wounded only to see the driver straighten his mirror – like this had happened a hundred times before – and jump in his car off to his next destination. Ah, Scotland.
The driving continued, each of us shaken by what had happened with the mirror but many wonderful things were found, like Loch Earn and Loch Iubhair. Just a few of the amazing lochs Scotland has to offer. The first loch held two elderly gentlemen in a green tent, perched along the lochshore. They were fishing, and happily sitting and watching the crazy, screaming tubers whipping around on the loch, probably scaring all the fish away. I asked what they were fishing for and he said some fish I wasn’t familiar with and trout, pronounced “troot.” I wished him luck and headed back up the hill to be greeted by a Labrador puppy named Oscar who gave me a big sloppy kiss as a welcome to Scotland! And the weather was absolutely incredible. It was our reward for the horrors of driving in Scotland.
I need to back up a bit. When we started talking about doing this Scotland thing, there were a few things that we knew we wanted to do for sure: see some standing stones (there are several options), find Ewan McGregor, get some awesome pictures and pet a highland cow – the absolute cutest animal in the world. So, along our route, we finally saw our first cows and we both broke into giggles of joy. And they were just as cute as we’d imagined. Emo bangs hanging in front of their eyes like a throw back from the 60’s, cute ears flicking away at the midges and flies that eat at them all day. And both the male and female have horns, so it’s hard to know which is which. But this one Heinlin Coo as they pronounce it here seemed to be the leader, parked up top a lovely rolling hill. In the background, minus the electric pole, were the mountains all blue and misty. It’s exactly how I pictured we’d see them. They were so content, that is until, of course, two American tourists came and started ooing and awing at them. They must have thought we were crazy. They were close, but still no petting. Hopefully we’ll get to do that soon!
We stopped various places along the way but eventually did make it to our lovely cottage. It took us a while to find as there’s very little in your face direction. We went up and down the road, turned around several times (in opposite traffic that we weren’t comfortable in) and finally ended up home. Right on the loch, across the street from buoyed boats and rumbling mountains. Hunger got the best of us, so we quickly unloaded and jumped back in the car in search of food. Unfortunately, being Saturday night, everything was booked. We eventually found this little pub in Ballachulish where we ate amazing fish and chips then walked over to the “Co-op” where we stocked up on some groceries to get us through.
Back home, we opened the door to watch the sunset across the lake at 10:45pm! The bright purples and pinks painted the skyline like I’ve never seen. My camera didn’t do it justice (and was being snarky by not focusing) as the clouds rolled across the sky. The wind picked up a touch and the buoys across the way started to make a bell-like sound as they clunked against the moorings. So peaceful. We stood and took in with all our senses the scenery around us.
Behind us, in the mountains, the wind whistled through the forest and a distant cry of sheep echoed through, riding the breeze to our cottage. We knew we’d found something special.