Scotland – the Last Wee Bits…

So this is it – my last night in Scotland. How better to celebrate than an evening at the most popular place in town – with a whisky that Andy, the Pub Keep, brought out from ‘upstairs’ especially for me. Balvenie Doublewood 12 year. It’s apparently matured in two woods. First in the traditional Oak Whisky cask then a ‘First Fill’ European Oak Sherry cask. We both had a rather hushed reverence as he carefully poured my dram. He then instructed me on the fine art of introducing water to the glass. Water opens up the flavor so having it ‘neat’ is really robbing you of the fullness. One ice cube is the best – slipped into the glass – not dropped – rolled around and then….enjoy! Being as how it’s a last night and all – I didn’t ask the price – just handed him my credit card… I found out later – it was free!

The weather is cooperating as well. I got to sit outside with an amazing view of the waning afternoon sun and- get this – no wind! Maybe this is my fare-thee-well from beyond the beyond… Whatever it may be – I am in total appreciation.

The last wee bits of my time in Scotland. Certainly they are too numerous to mention. As I said in an earlier post – a post by definition is not a novel so while I could go on forever – I’ll keep it as succinct as I can. Just a few things that come to mind:

Food – it’s rich, rich, rich here! Pasties, meat pies, shepards pie, fish and chips. It seems that anything that can be deep fried or smothered in butter – is! Potatoes are a staple as is Tablet. A super sweet and hard form of fudge. Bakeries are everywhere. Forres alone has three and it is a pretty tiny town. Being gluten and egg intolerant – it’s a bit like torture to look but don’t taste…sigh. Stand alone butcher shops are popular and venison is right there along with the angus. I have tried the haddock and found it to my liking as well as the atlantic salmon but not the farmed raised stuff. Venison pate with oak cakes – well – you just haven’t lived ’til you’ve tried it. The one delicacy I heard about but didn’t get a chance to partake was deep fried Mars Bars. Not Kidding! Apparently you take a regular old Mars Bar – dip it in batter – and stick it in the vat. When it floats – it’s done. Probably a good thing I wasn’t introduced. While my clothes still fit – I can say with all certainty – I’m gonna have some ‘splainin’ to do to my scale when I get home!!

Since Paris is my next stop and I will be meeting my Beloved there (read Absolutely Can’t Wait!) it puts me in mind of all things romantic. That includes PDAs – public displays of affection for the uninitiated. Paris is considered by many to be the height of romance and anything goes. Having been there twice before – alone – I can only surmised by what I witnessed. It seems as if the attitude was anything goes but it also felt a bit contrived – as if the inhabitants had a reputation to live up to. What I appreciated in my forays in Scotland was an ample albeit reserved public demonstration of ones regard for ones mate. It was lovely to see and was not just a hallmark of the young. In fact, most of the hand holding, kissing, walking arm-in-arm and door openings-by-men were by older couples. There was a gentle deference by the men towards their women – a public chivalry that I just haven’t witnessed elsewhere. And before any reader cried foul and tries to deride the happy recipients – the Scottish women I’ve had the pleasure to chat with are about the strongest lot I’ve met in some time. Not many shrinking violets here. Or for that matter – Barbie Dolls or Princesses. The climate alone wouldn’t allow it! At least as far as what I was privy to – there just seems to be simply an appreciation for each other and a celebration and gratitude for the differences between the sexes and – at the end of the day – the power of two. Perhaps I’m waxing poetic but I found it lovely to witness anyway…

Being from Seattle – I don’t have much in the way of daily reminders of my area’s history. Here the evidence is just everywhere. Cairns, ancient burial sites, Pictish forts, castles – restored and in ruins, even farms separated by stone fences hundreds and hundreds of years old. It is not out of the ordinary to see a stone archway and remains of an ancient building tucked away in a new development. Standing stones are everywhere as well. I saw many and a few of them were in pastures with little fences around them to keep the livestock from using them as scratching posts. So many of the homes in the villages are at least two hundred years old and they have the delightful tradition of naming the house. Your address would be: Lockney Cottage 212, Forres….

Another delightful tradition – dogs are allowed in the pubs! In fact, they are welcome members. I met several – large and small – young and old. In fact, just this evening an older couple was coming by the Kimberly and their spaniel jumped up the stairs to where the outside tables sit. The owner gave the leash a tug – the dog looked at him askance – the owner looked at me and said – perhaps a bit sheepishly, “it’s a cryin’ shame when your dog knows your habits that well”. Being a dog lover I’d welcome them too. I have a wonderful ‘niece’ – her name is Sophia – and as a standard Blue poodle – she’d make sure she was the belle of the ball. Of course – she is a princess by any definition so we might have to make allowances…. LOL!

Dogs reign and they are the happiest dogs I’ve seen. They cavort, chase birds ever hopefully, hop around in the surf, swim endlessly and being Scottish dogs – rocks are just fine to retrieve. No need for sissy tennis balls here, thank you very much.

Bicycles are a popular form of transportation and not just for the Lance Armstrong Wannabees. All ages can be seen pedaling away – chatting on cell phones, smoking cigarettes – and – drinking a beer (yes!) – makes me almost want to put a basket and bell on my mountain bike.

Soccer is for wimps – rugby is king. The World Cup finals is all you hear about right now and the fact that France beat England…..

Laundry is hung outside to dry and not just on the fine days. As long as it isn’t raining – sheets and socks are flapping away. Dryers are not considered a right and with electricity as expensive as it is – mother nature is put to the task. The sheets smell divine…

All in all what I have appreciated most about Scotland is the lack of pretension. I can’t quite find the right words but what comes to mind is ‘real’. Now this of course is coming through the filters of my own experiences, my own world view, my own perspectives. Another traveler may and most probably will experience something different all together. But that’s for them to discover. What I know is I have discovered a little piece of heaven on earth where you don’t have to lock your doors, people are – for the most part – down home friendly and inviting, dogs are really really happy and – you can fry up a Mars bar and no one will think the less of you….

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