“Errr, ummm stay on the left! Your left! The other left! Left! Left! Left!”
I shrieked in horror as I realized I’d entered a roundabout going the wrong way.
Upon accepting that it was to late to do anything but continue to drive around it, Katie burst into a fit of nervous giggles, abandoning her cries of, “Go left, left left!” for encouraging advice to just leave the roundabout and get to the left side of the road. Immediately.
I was so confused. My left hand grabbed the gear shift tightly and my right hand knocked the windshield wipers on to full speed. Wipe! Wipe! Wipe! Wipe! Wipe!
Nothing made sense. I couldn’t tell where I was supposed to go. I started on my second lap around the roundabout….still driving the wrong way.
That’s when I saw my escape: an empty lot near where I had entered the roundabout. I pulled off, put the car in neutral and pulled the e-break, letting the engine idle and the windshield wipers continue to scrape against the dry glass. I looked sheepishly at Katie, still trying to be positive and encouraging through the fits of giggles. I took a deep breath.
“Well, I’m sure glad to have gotten that out of my system. Don’t worry, buddy, I got this.”
As I re-entered the roundabout, staying on the proper side this time, an older gentleman with a horrified look on his face waved at us. Katie nodded to let him know that we were ok now, just shaking a few North American habits before our trip up to the Highlands.
Somehow, Katie and I navigated across the city of Edinburgh to pick up 3 more friends and pack them tightly into the back seat of our grey Peugeot (don’t worry, I can’t pronounce it either, I just called it our Griffin car).
Driving in the city itself was a bit nerve-wracking. I didn’t have any problems entering roundabouts after the first debacle, but some of the roads are pretty narrow and I was never quite confident in knowing exactly how much room remained between the left side of my car and things like rocks, sidewalks, and parked cars. The defroster seemed to have two settings: “off” and “hurricane gale force winds.” Also, my battle with the windshield wipers was to wage on throughout the weekend. It was like the damn things had a mind of their own and generally preferred to stay in “full speed ahead” mode.
Leaving the city, I needed to turn left onto West Approach Road. I flicked my indicator and got into the left lane. Like a pro. All 5 of our voices chatted at once, excited to be taking a trip, intoxicated with the freedom of having a car for 2 days. Just as I was reaching for my water bottle, I thought in my out loud voice, “This is a really long light, isn’t it?” The girls nodded in agreement, it felt like we had been sitting there for 10 minutes. I looked ahead of the cars in front of me to see the light change green and humbly asked, “Um. Guys? Am I parked!?”
Uproars of laughter informed me that I was, indeed, parked. My car sat idling behind three empty taxi cabs. We’re just going to pretend like that never happened.
Driving up to the Highlands was relatively easy. I managed to get the windshield wipers under control and Katie somehow got the defroster to keep the windows clear without blowing us all away. Scotland is a beautiful country in the rain, with heavy clouds hanging low in the sky.
After lunch in Inverness, we drove out to Loch Ness and toured Urquhart Castle.
Urquhart Castle overlooks the deepest part of Loch Ness. We decided if we saw Nessie, it would be best to not sell her out, even though I always knew I’d publish a photo of her in the interest of my own wealth and fame. Sorry girl.
That night, we hit Inverness as a force to be reckoned with. Our first stop was a pub called Hootananny. I sipped a G&T while listening to “old people playing old songs.” It was fantastic and if we had stayed there any longer, I might have worked up the courage to try a little jig myself.
After leaving Hootananny, our ears led us to more live music. A small, dark pub with a classic metal rock vibe. After his set, the singer was replaced by a truly talented bagpiper. At the end of her song, the bagpiper did the most awesome thing imaginable: she let us try to play her bagpipes! I feel like I was able to scratch something off my bucket list that I didn’t even know was on my bucket list!
Now, I use the phrase “play the bagpipes” loosely here. See, playing bagpipes is hard. Almost impossible. I went first in the group, walking up to the instrument with the confidence of a girl who played saxophone in high school and was on the swim team. I had no reason to doubt my embouchure nor my lung capacity. With all the force I could muster, I produced a pitiful wail from the pipes and handed them back, defeated. Still, at least I blew into the mouthpiece instead of the first pipe like someone did….taking the hilarity of American girls playing bagpipes in Scotland to a whole new level.
In the morning, we drove out to Divach Falls and then to a stone circle, where, after spending time so near the falls, I had to pee. I discretely picked a spot behind a relatively large stone, but my friends were mortified. More by the fact that I was urinating in the presence of a 4,000 year old burial site (*Note, I did not pee ON the stones, I peed in the vicinity of the stones as respectfully as I could.) Jersey Fresh warned me against bad mojo, but no urinary tract infection yet, so I’m guessing the stones have seen enough of human nature in the past 4,000 years to know I meant no disrespect. When you gotta go, you gotta go.
After lunch, we explored the battlefield of Culloden.
The only way I can describe Culloden is “heavy.” The air is heavy. I felt the same way I did when I visited Gettysburg. It’s as if ground that has seen so much death and destruction never forgets it.
Leaving Culloden, we detoured out to see one more set of standing stones.
(NOTE: At this point, if you’ve read the Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon, you may be sensing the theme of the trip Jersey Fresh put together…)
Unfortunately, I didn’t actually get sucked into the stones and find myself in 18th century Scotland. But, there’s always next time, right?