WE’VE ARRIVED!

We skidded into the Parliament House Hotel (Edinburgh) about an hour before we were to meet our group.  We registered and were directed to our room. RM and I had a good, but small room with two of the three windows painted shut. The third window opened, but wouldn’t stay open. So, I dug around and found a canister full of tea in a drawer and used that to prop it up. (With no AC, you had to do something.) We quickly washed up and headed to the lobby where the 28 tour members were greeting and introducing themselves to each other.  We had an architect, two doctors, some software engineers and TEN teachers. Age range was 21 – 82.

(SCOTLAND FACT: People in EdinBORO get as upset when a visitor says EdinBURG as we do when someone says IllinoiSSSSS or AwanaS.)

We paraded out of the hotel and up Calton Hill which was right across the road (and up about 327 steps).

WHAT IS IT? Calton Hill is in the center of Edinburgh and from the top you have panoramic views of the city, including Arthur’s Seat which is the main peak in Holyrood Park

HOW DO YOU GET THERE? By climbing 143 steep steps (just felt like 327)

WHAT’S THERE? Nelson’s Monument and Edinburgh’s Folly.

Edinburgh’s Folly was constructed (well, partially constructed) back in 1817 to commemorate those who died in the Napoleonic Wars. Unfortunately, they needed 42,000 pounds and quickly ran out of money. The structure (which was supposed to look like the Parthenon in Athens) only has a front. (I thought of you, Karen, and our seven mile walk to the Parthenon in Nashville.)

WORTH IT? Yes, but plan to climb a lot of steps.

We then paraded back down the steps and over to Howie’s Restaurant which is located in a 200 year old building.

After we ate, Anne (the wonderful Scottish tour guide) made a little speech and somehow in her speech, she added, “And the Daisies were the last to arrive.” Forget Me and the Other Three – from there on out, everyone called us The Daisies. And sometimes in identifying ourselves, we would simply say, “I’m one of The Daisies.”

Then she set up the buddy system. This had to be someone you didn’t know anything about. My buddy was a random guy who was sitting down at the end of the table with his wife. (More about that later.) Your job was to make sure your buddy was on the bus each morning and after every stop. That way, people didn’t get left behind.

Each night Anne would post the next day’s itinerary so we would know what was happening. But many of us took a picture of the itinerary so it would help us identify the day’s pictures.

SCENES FROM AN AIRPORT

My body is here at my house, but my brain is still in Scotland.

Which is why I am wide awake at 3:00 in the morning, which wouldn’t be so bad, but that means I’ve only had four hours of sleep since 11:00 Tuesday night. This WILL catch up to me.

Meanwhile, I’ll post a post (but don’t be surprised if my words come out sdrawkcab.)

(Thanks to my favorite daughter-in-law for being guest blogger while I was gone. You did a great job, Cindy! )

So, this all started last fall when a friend called and said that she and two other friends were going to Scotland and did I want to go, too?

(I have known these three co-trippees for a VERY long time – one since she was in grade school and the other two since college.  I will call them RM (roommate), FG (flower girl) and DG (dream girl – since it was her dream that motivated us to actually GO to Scotland in the first place). By the way, the co-trippees also have REAL names.) Yes, I know I used too many parentheses in that sentence and the editing team would go crazy, but hey, I’m on vacation.

My immediate answer was “yes.” I did not even take 49 seconds to think about it. I would GO!  After a lot of talking and thinking and MULLing it over, we decided to go on a Rick Steve’s Europe through the Back Door tour. (You might have seen Rick’s TV show, however, we of course didn’t see Rick in person, but had a wee Scottish tour guide named Anne.)

So, after planning and saving and planning and saving some more, we met at the airport on the appointed day.  At this point, we were calling ourselves ME AND THE OTHER THREE.  But our name instantly and unexpectedly changed when we got to Scotland.

(Side note for people who do not travel internationally that much. We took Aer Lingus and let me say, this is the most entertaining plane I have ever taken. We all had our own individual screens with a selection of several movies, tv shows, games, and music. They even have it all divided into kid/adult entertainment. Mostly I played Who Wants to Be a Millionaire – though the questions had a European twist, so I didn’t do all that well. The other cool thing was the flight information which told you how far, how high and how fast you were going, a feature made even cooler by watching the little airplane move from Point A to Point B across the Atlantic. You do have to get past the creepy cartoon figure acting out the safety instructions, however.)

The Irish farmland is beautiful and very different from say, flying over Iowa farmland. Iowa farmland is unique in its own way, but the Irish fields are defined by hedgerows.  To me, the landscape looked like a little kid’s drawing where each field was outlined with dark crayon.

After a eight hour flight, we arrived in Dublin, Ireland where we had a six hour layover.

Six hours in an airport? I did some picture taking. (Remember, this was our first day, so I was still excited enough to be taking pictures of things like people’s feet  – but the scenery does get MUCH better.)

The White Stag

Jeff’s Uncle Roger, Aunt Sally, and Lindy will be arriving soon, and we’ll all head off for a Massey/Weddle family tradition–the White Stag, which is a steak place Roger has been eating at for many years.  He likes to tell us that a steak dinner used to cost him $5 there.  Alas, the same dinner now runs you $15.

But it’s worth it every once in a while.  This time we’re bringing our son, Jacob.  Normally, a steak place would be the last place we’d bring our children, but it’s a special treat.  Our daughters, along with their cousin, are going to visit their grandparents next week.  Poor Jacob gets left out once again.  It’s hard being the only boy. 

So, steak he gets.  Jacob loves steak.  He has not been able to concentrate on anything else but going to the steak place with Mom and Dad since yesterday afternoon.  Please, please, Uncle Roger and Aunt Sally come quickly.

Hodag Country Festival

About 30 years ago, a farmer decided to stop farming and instead host an outdoor country music festival.  He scattered port-a-potties around his land, put up a few fences,  hired some country bands, and voila, he got himself a country music festival.

Actually, it’s become quite a big deal around here.  The four-day music concert in July draws about 30,000 people, and dozens of them line their campers up for a prime spot a month ahead of time. 

Did I mention that we live less than 1/4 mile, as the crow flies, from the festival grounds?  Or that the performances typically last until 1:oo am?

On the one hand, the traffic around here is atrocious, and very intoxicated people get more intoxicated. (One year I was spit upon.  Another year there was a stabbing.) But on the other hand, the tax revenue pays for a sweet fire station and well-plowed roads in the winter. 

Anyway, whether we like it or not, our town has been invaded by hundreds of campers, and we’re about to get a free four-day concert!  (For anyone interested, this Saturday is Hodag Hanky Day.)

Career Choices

Jeff and I finally felt like we were part of the local crowd in Rhinelander when we got a part-time job cleaning resorts.  Everyone we talked to here, at one time or another, cleaned resorts, and it’s kind of seen as an initiation into Northwoods life.

Our other choices were lumberjacking (too dangerous), working at the paper mill (too smelly), secretarial work at the hospital (I’d surely mess up someone’s paper work), or becoming a small business owner (we don’t know how to do anything).

So cleaning resorts it is.  And you know, it can be kind of fun at times.  My husband and I can work together, make a nice little paycheck, and have someone else watch our kids.  We’ve got it going on! 

Today, however, was 87 degrees, humid, and not as fun!  And the kids got to spend the whole day on the water with friends.  They went canoeing, swimming, and made sand castles, while Jeff and I cleaned four houses.  And there were thousands of these little white bugs that apparently just hatched.

But all in all, it’s not too bad.  We work at a really gorgeous resort and also clean vacation homes that are crazy beautiful, with owners who tip rather nicely.  Could be worse.

The Hodag

Too tired to write.  Spent the day at the beach.  I’ll let the internet explain Rhinelander’s popular mascot.  You can even watch a video about recent sightings.

In 1893 newspapers reported the discovery of a Hodag in Rhinelander, Wisconsin. It had “the head of a frog, the grinning face of a giant elephant, thick short legs set off by huge claws, the back of a dinosaur, and a long tail with spears at the end”.

The reports were instigated by well-known Wisconsin timber cruiser and prankster Eugene Shepard, who rounded up a group of local people to capture the animal. The group reported that they needed to use dynamite  to kill the beast. A photograph of the remains of the charred beast was released to the media.

It was “the fiercest, strangest, most frightening monster ever to set razor sharp claws on the earth. It became extinct after its main food source, all white bulldogs became scarce in the area.”

Tremble in fear.

Cultural Activities

I was a literature major in college.  I liked to go to see Shakespeare in the park and attend poetry readings at coffee shops.  But, I guess, at heart I’m more simplistic because those activities have been replaced by less cultured events. 

I suppose my marriage to Jeff (whose sarcasm knew no bounds at things like Shakespeare in the park), having children, and living in a small town all contribute to this, but I have to be honest and say that I’m really not that interested in those kind of things anymore.

Nowadays, any “cultural” activity revolves around the kids, and they are usually free!  We have a great library, which puts on some pretty neat events, like the annual Tea Party for young girls.  They are told the history of tea, they make a craft, and they eat chocolate covered cherries and other yummy desserts.

Last week the whole family went to a juggling show, featuring two former Ringling Brothers Barnum and Bailey Circus clowns.  I thought Jacob was going to fall over from laughing so hard.  Can’t beat that kind of entertainment.

And who would choose poetry readings over a free brat lunch at our local bank?  Or the Halloween trick-or-treating and cupcake making events at Wal-Mart? 

Last night we took the kids to a free Dixieland style concert by the Riverwalk.  The music and the 100 old folks in the crowd provided my children with lots of culture.

Yep, it’s all good.