Home Again
Posted in General
Forenoon watch, 1 bell (8:36 am)

Well we made it home all right, despite being forgotten about by Lorien's parents. When we got to the Spokane airport last night around 11:30 there was nobody there to pick us up. United Airlines lost all but one piece of our luggage (we checked four) after we went through customs in Chicago. I knew it would happen when we had to drop off our luggage where there must have been 200 other pieces, and the large black lady there said to just leave our luggage and it would get on the plane. She said it would be no problem and to not worry. Whatever. The conveyor belt wasn't running, which is why the luggage was so backed up.

Anyway, we got to Spokane and my leather was the only package we had waiting for us. We tried calling Lorien's parents to find out if they were coming to pick us up, but couldn't reach anyone. We called her uncle Scott and he came to our rescue. Shortly thereafter, we got hold of her parents, they put our pickup time on the wrong date. We got home just after 1:30am and I was able to sleep until about 6:30. Better than nothing, I suppose.

It's good to be home.

Posted in Travel
Morning watch, 8 bells (8:02 am)

Today we awoke near the shores of Loch Ness and are going to sleep under the foggy blanket surrounding Edinburgh. In fact, the last two days have had a lot of fog, only burning off for a short time in the middle of the afternoon.

After a hearty breakfast of Scottish oatmeal, fried egg, toast, and haggis (yummmmmm, haggis), we sadly checked out of the Woodlands B&B (it's great and I highly recommend it if you're in the area!) and drove to Castle Urquhart, about a mile and a half away. The castle didn't open until 9:30am (we were told it opened at 9), so we waited around the visitor's center for a half hour before being able to enter. The benefit of this was that we were among the first people to visit the ruins today, and I got my favorite type of picture, the kind with nobody in it. We watched a short movie about this history of Castle Urquhart, then the screen retracted, the curtains opened, and we saw a great panorama of the castle in front of us! It was very dramatic. This has to be one of the neatest visitor's centers I've ever been to.

We walked down to the castle, saw the trebuchet they built several years ago (in 2001 I think they said, so it was new the last time I was there), and took some more pictures. We also got a small amount of sand for Lorien's mom, who collects sand from different places.

After the castle, we tried to get a picture of a heighlan coo (highland cow), but strangely couldn't find any. There were, however, tons of sheep. So we drove back up to Inverness, then down the A9 to Edinburgh. Since we got a late start, we didn't arrive in the Edinburgh area until after 2pm. The drive was really nice, though. The traffic was getting bad, and it was really nerve-racking for me. I get nervous driving in big cities back in the States in a familiar car. Here, I'm in the right side of the car driving, shifting gears with my left hand and trying to stay on the left side of the road. The secret here is to remember that left-hand turns are the trickiest. I nearly drove my wife crazy with my driving (hehe), but we finally found J. Hewit and Sons tannery. I expected a tannery to smell bad, but it wasn't bad at all. It was an old building, and we almost missed it, but Lorien spotted it just as we were passing it, so we turned around and drove down to it. I don't think they get much walk-in business—whoever runs the office was gone, and a guy from the second floor shouted down to me that he'd meet me in the blue left-hand door. I was really hoping to get some binding type and brass tools, but they don't have much of that in stock, they special order it from their supplier. But I was able to look through tons of leather, calf and goat, and pick out a few skins for my projects. I'll have to order my brass type later, apparently it takes 5-6 weeks anyway. I have to decide what font and point size I want, as well as whether I want the type on hand tools or the traditional way for use with a type holder.

After the tannery, we attempted to drive to our hotel but were thwarted by the odd roundabouts and road system they have here. The signs will say one thing when you're approaching them, but the individual signs on the roundabout exits have different labels—it was really frustrating. So we got a bit lost. When we finally got back on track we decided to head for the airport, as it should be one of the most well-labeled places around. It was. We returned our rental car and took the airport shuttle bus (it leaves Edinburgh airport every 10 minutes or so) to the Edinburgh Zoo, which is right next to the Holiday Inn where we are staying. In fact they share the same driveway. If our room was in a different direction and it wasn't so foggy, we could probably see down into the zoo. The airport shuttle bus is great, has tons of room for luggage, and costs only £3 for a one-way trip, or £5 for a round-trip. And the return journey can be on a different day!

After getting checked in, we went down to their Chinese restaurant to eat dinner. It was really good, but also really expensive. They are so swank they have their own printed fortune cookies, with their restaurant name on the back of the fortunes. My fortune cookie was somewhat burned, though. After that, we put on our hiking shoes for the last time and ventured on the city bus system to the city center. It was about a 10 minute ride to the royal gardens, right outside the castle. The castle is quite imposing sitting up on its hill the way it does, and it looked especially mysterious tonight with so much fog around. I took a ton of pictures. We walked a ways down the Royal Mile, which still had many open shops despite the lateness of the hour. It was already after 8pm. We found a music store and picked up several CDs. Lorien got some dance/techno music, they listen to it at work all the time apparently.

As it was getting darker and later, we decided to head back to the hotel and turn in. I'm off to the shower and to repack before sleeping, so I really should be going.

Here are some sights we saw around Edinburgh:

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