A Long-Awaited Trip Begins

After years of talking about it, Steve and I finally made plans this year for a trip to Scotland. I have spent months planning for the trip – reading guide books, creating a spreadsheet of sites of interest, and coming up with possible itineraries. As part of the planning process, I created a map plotting all of the possibilities to help us determine our regional focus and our path through the country. As soon as I finished putting all of the individual points on the map, I zoomed out to see the country, and burst into laughter.

Points of Interest map

Apparently, we wanted to see Scotland. I should also note that the very few areas that are not well-represented on the map are not necessarily uninteresting to us. No, we had actually made a decision early on broadly defining some areas we knew would be unattainable on this trip. So, yes, this is actually a scaled back version.

Even so, we clearly weren’t going to be able to see everything we want to see, so we decided to focus our trip on three broad regions, with a promise to ourselves to go again at some point in the future and visit some additional areas. The benefit to this is that I’ve already done a great deal of planning, and have come up with an itinerary for the second trip during this process, so I should have relatively little additional tour planning to do the next time!

We finally departed for Scotland on the evening of September 5th.

We were on the “Tinkerbell” on the flight from San Francisco; I couldn’t help but wonder how hard we were going to have to clap to cross the ocean.

Tinkerbell airplane

We had a direct flight to Heathrow before catching a connection to Edinburgh. We were very happy for the direct to London, but there is no denying it is a long flight. We were flying Virgin Atlantic, which I liked for the edible food and good selection of movies available to view on the seatback screens. I particularly enjoyed a British rom-com I’d never heard of before, starring Simon Pegg: Man Up. Check it out if you like that kind of movie. It was quite good.

Steve said he was less impressed with the flight. I think his expectations of international travel have been influenced a bit by his flight on Emirates to India a few years ago, while perhaps my evaluation was influenced by the fact that the vast majority of my flight experience has been on Southwest.

Either way, we were both extremely pleased when the plane pushed back from the gate and took off with the window seat in our row empty. Having refused to acknowledge the growing possibility of this miracle until we were in the air (if we’d said something, a sweaty, last minute stand-by passenger would have undoubtedly come rushing in), I did an inner “oh my god, oh my god, oh my god” squee of joy as the attendants secured the doors.

The extra room allowed us to spread out in our row, so I was sitting in the window seat on the right side of the plane as we flew into Heathrow and was treated to a very nice view of the Thames. I was pretty impressed with the photos I was able to get using Steve’s cell phone.

London from the plane

Tower Bridge from airplane

River Thames and Tower Bridge from airplane

London Eye from airplane

River Thames and London Eye from airplane

Leaving Heathrow, we were on the appropriately named “Tartan Lassie”. Steve was pretty much the walking dead by the time we landed in Edinburgh, so he wasn’t with it enough to wave like the queen as he came down the stairs exiting the plane.

Tartan Lassie airplane

The tram into the city was fast and super easy. After checking in, we spent a little time walking around the immediate vicinity of our hotel, snapping quick shots of Princes Street Gardens and Edinburgh Castle.

Princes Street Gardens

Edinburgh Castle

We finished the day with a quick meal in the pub under the hotel – upon booking, we had specifically requested a room far away from said pub – then I presented Steve with the agenda for the morrow before passing out with exhaustion.