Category Archives: vacation

#Scotland 2015 Day 18 – Fly Home

#Scotland 2015 – Sept 28, 2015


Checked out of the hotel, we were in Terminal 2 before the Air Transat counter even opened. Flying Option Plus gave us priority check-in, boarding and luggage handling so we would be looked after before the minions. And speaking of minions, one of them (and his wife) stood where the line would begin until they were told to go sit down because it would be another half an hour or so before check-in would be open. So what did they do then? They left their luggage carts (hers with all the luggage – his with his golf clubs only) behind saving their places so that they would be at the head of the queue. That didn’t last long. Someone came along and told them if they didn’t move the bags, they would be considered unattended luggage and destroyed. And wouldn’t you know, they moved the bags… drat.

One thing I’d not seen in the airport was a clock. Neither one of us wears a watch. Both my phones (unlocked iPhone and Blackberry) were in our soon-to-be checked in large bags, and hubby’s Blackberry was turned off because it needed to be charged at the first opportunity.

There was a girl at the Air Transat information desk so he walked over there to find out what time it was. While there, he asked if there were any seats remaining in Club Class. It was supposed to be a surprise but since I had the tickets and our passports in my bought-in-Edinburgh handbag, the surprise was no more. Rather than leave our stuff unattended, I loaded up and wheeled our large bags over. Thankfully, it wasn’t far.

Two seats were left in Club but they weren’t together. But with only six seats up there, we wouldn’t be far apart. Upgrade paid for (this morning hubby’s MasterCard wouldn’t work – mine hadn’t worked the entire trip) on a different credit card, the young lady from here walked over to check-in with us. And we did get two seats together!

Checked in, and through security, we stopped at Beardmore for breakfast. We’ve eaten here in the past and it’s good food and good value for the money.

When we reached the departure lounge at gate 29, there were electrical outlets on the wall by the end of the row of seats. Adapter pulled out of the CPAP machine bag, charger cable out of hubby’s computer backpack, his Blackberry was plugged in. It wouldn’t get a full charge but at least it would have enough to be able to phone/text my cousin when we landed and when we got to the post outside where she would meet us.

I took a few pictures of planes taking off through the window directly in front of our seats before hubby took the camera and said ‘pretend you’re sad’. I didn’t have to pretend. I was but pulled a face and he snapped the picture.

Me pulling an exaggerated sad face in the terminal because we were leaving

An Air Transat plane landed and we assumed it was ours. I followed it to the other side of the departure lounge and got photos of it approaching the gate.

Our plane taxiing after landing
Our plane approaching the gate

We had decided to leave the Blackberry charging for as long as possible – even if it meant carrying it, cable and adapter plug in hand when we were called to board.

Gradually, the lounge filled up and Mr and Mrs Minion arrived. When the call was made to board, they rushed over even though at that point it was only people travelling with young children under the age of 5 or people who needed assistance. Club and Option Plus were next. Our seats were in the front row of Club Class between the two aisles of the plane.

The look on Mr Minion’s face was priceless when he and the missus boarded. We were long since seated and were sipping champagne when they finally got on.

Our flight director was wonderful. She teased hubby (after telling him he couldn’t use his headphones until we were in the air but he could still hold my hand). He’s not a good flyer.

Once everyone was seated, the safety video started, we taxied out to the runway for takeoff. Well, that was the plan. We accelerated and were just about the point of leaving the ground when the pilot braked hard and put the engines in reverse to stop us. Even though I was firmly strapped into my seat belt, I felt myself slide forward in the seat so put my foot against the bulkhead to keep from going any further forward.

The pilot came on the intercom and told us a warning light had gone off so he aborted the takeoff. We sat on a taxi way while fire engines rushed out to where we sat. We were informed this was standard procedure and we weren’t on fire but they had to check the landing gear and the brakes before they’d let us return to a gate.

The guy who had a window seat on the left side of the plane pulled his phone out and took pictures of the fire engine parked out there.

I turned hubby’s phone back on and texted my cousin telling her our flight was delayed but not the reason behind it and that we would check back with them when we could before turning the phone back off. I didn’t want her to worry needlessly and I didn’t want to run out the bit of charge we’d given the battery.

When we got back to the gate, the flight crew opened the doors on the plane to let in fresh air and to cool things down a bit then brought around water and plastic glasses for anyone who wanted it. Trying to make light of the situation, all I could think of saying was “Honey, I’m home!” and so I did.

One of the employees who we’d met at check-in but wasn’t one of our flight crew boarded during the repairs. Hubby had teased her earlier about being the ‘boss’ because she was at a counter by herself. He asked her if this was the same plane we had flown over on back on 11th September. She wouldn’t say yay or nay, but did say she’d tell him the next time we came over.

About an hour later, we were ready to try the takeoff again. This time it was without incident. The plane landed just before 5:00 pm and by 5:45, we had cleared customs got our bags off the carousel and were waiting by post 42. I don’t think anyone from our flight was pulled into secondary. I figure they thought we were all too traumatized by the aborted takeoff. I know the guy in the baggage hall was freaked out when we told him how our flight started.

After a long and eventful day, we finally arrived home at 10:30 and didn’t even bother to unpack. De-briefed with our son who had looked after the house and dog while we were gone, texted my cousin to say we had arrived safely, spent some time paying attention to the dog before going to bed.

And poor me has to get up to go to work tomorrow morning!

#Scotland 2015 Day 17 – Bankend to Glasgow Airport

#Scotland 2015 – Sept 27, 2015

This was our last ‘full’ day in Scotland. The beautiful weather was a direct contrast to how we were feeling. The only thing we knew this morning is that we didn’t want to go to the hotel via the A74(M).

Along the A76 north of Thornhill

When we were stopped to take photos near Mennock, we decided that we had time to go visit our friends who live at Quarriers Village.

Along the A76 between Mennock and Sanquhar
Along the A76 between Mennock and Sanquhar

Lucky us, we ended up behind a farm tractor at Lochwinnoch and were stuck behind him the rest of the way to the village. Well, not quite all of the way. We were close enough that the bell tower on the church was visible so the first road to the right, I turned down it. Anything to get away from the tractor.

From this road, we got an excellent view of the three former consumption sanatoria buildings – now converted to luxury flats and surrounded with new housing. Unfortunately, there wasn’t an opportunity to pull over and take photos. But, you can see what we saw from this image from google street views.

We had a lovely surprise visit with our friends. They had things to do later that afternoon so we didn’t get to stay long but it was still great to see them – even for just a short time.

Things in the village have changed considerably since our last visit there. Double yellow lines and speed bumps (I believe they’re called ramps) on the streets. The bridge over the Gotter Water has finally been repaired (gone is the Bailey bridge and traffic lights at either end that had been there for years). The church where we renewed our vows in 2000 for our 25th wedding anniversary has also been converted to flats. The peaceful atmosphere that once enveloped the village is no longer there which is sad.

We said our goodbyes and promised that next time we would ‘warn’ them ahead of our impending visit so they could run off and hide… LOL!

Since we had papers and bags and such loose on the floor in the back seat of the car, we stopped in Bridge of Weir and gathered everything up into a couple of bags, put my cameras back in their case so when we returned the rental car, we wouldn’t have to do it all then.

The only confusion we had when we returned the car, was we were never given an updated rental agreement. We still had the original one for the Ford Focus we were supposed to have. According to the guy there, we shouldn’t have had to pay the extra to upgrade to the larger Vauxhall Astra Estate because it was their idea to give us a bigger vehicle.

We always get the CDW (collision damage waiver) so once we gave him the rental agreement, we didn’t have to stick around. We were free to leave – okay after the aforementioned confusion was cleared up. Hubby got a cart and we loaded our bags onto it and trundled through the carpark and to the hotel.

Because of the convenience of dropping our rented vehicle off and the proximity of the hotel to the airport, we always spend our last night here. In the past, our flights left early in the morning so it was nice to only have to ‘stagger’ across five lanes of traffic to get into the airport terminal.

Our room at the Holiday Inn, Glasgow Airport
Our room at the Holiday Inn, Glasgow Airport

As has become habit over the years, the first order of business once we’re settled (and me taking pictures), we rearrange the suitcases so that they’re as close to equal weight as we can get and preferably below the limit. We’d booked Option Plus so had an extra 10 kg weight allowance per bag which is a good thing since both were over the 20 kg limit.

Once that chore was completed, we went for a walk through the airport and around the ‘block’ before returning to the hotel where we had supper and drinks in the bar before going back to our room.

#Scotland 2015 Day 5 – Nairn to Kennethmont

#Scotland 2015 – Sept 15, 2015

We woke to another day of sunshine. Since we were close to the sea, I thought it would be nice to drive along the coast of the Moray Firth for at least part of our journey.

Being the stinker that I can be (I know I hear you saying – “You? Never”) I really wanted to go through Cullen. Travelling from west to east, the 90 degree corner at the bottom of the hill isn’t so intimidating. When we were over in 1997, we came through Cullen from the opposite direction, my husband behind the wheel. After the sharp corner at the bottom of the hill after passing under the railway viaduct, he swore off driving in Scotland for good.

Moray Firth at Cullen and a section of the viaduct for the dismantled railway
The smallest section of the viaduct
The section of the viaduct over the main road

Can you imagine how loud the noise from the train would have been in these houses? How about the shaking every time a train went through? The little white one has a small gate separating it from the viaduct but the one across the street is attached.

Since we were so close to Ladysbridge (the site of the former asylum that I used in my novel, A Shadow in the Past) we drove by it to see if the two boarded up, almost derelict houses had been refurbished. Nothing had been done to either one of them, but two brand new houses now stood in between them. And the old school building on the opposite side of the street to the main asylum (now luxury flats) was in the process of being pulled down.

After seeing Ladysbridge, we headed off to Orbs Bookshop in Huntly. The lady who used to run the shop contacted me in Sept 2013 about getting copies of A Shadow in the Past after I’d returned home (timing is everything, eh?) so I reached out before this trip and arranged to drop copies my novel off and the possibility of a signing. Anyway, the two books the shop could definitely purchase were signed and the transaction completed. We also volunteered our friends who lived nearby to keep the remaining books and take them to Huntly as and when required.

While there, another woman came in. She was involved with the MacMillan Cancer Support organization so I signed and donated a copy to the cause.

Before we left Huntly, we went over to the castle – another Historic Scotland property. We’re members of Historic Scotland so we get in to their properties free of charge and manned properties have toilets… except they were out of order this day.

Huntly Castle

While we were at the castle at the top of the tower on the left side of the photo above, we met a couple from Belgium. She immediately noticed that she and my husband both wore the same trainers. Obviously, that brand is known world-wide. Anyway, we had a great conversation with them before going our separate ways.

the top of the tower where we met the young couple and scenery beyond

Since we couldn’t bring home our bottle of 18-year old Cardhu on our last trip, we went back to Knockando where the distillery is located. The plan was to cut across the A920. There was a diversion sign on the A96 just before the intersection but the grass was long enough that we couldn’t see exactly where it was on the road we planned on taking. We got most of the way across when the road was totally closed. Mind you we’d met a fair amount of traffic so didn’t give it much thought… until we came to the construction site and the hole in the road. A slight backtrack and across a single track road, and into familiar territory thanks to the diversion because we drove by Fernbank House B&B where we had stayed in 2013.

Our bottle of Cardhu safely in hand  and toilets used at the distillery we were ready to drive to Kennethmont. In addition to the diversion due to the closure on the A920, there was also roadworks at Dufftown. To avoid this, we took the A95 to Keith where we hooked up with the A96 which would take us to Huntly.

We made a quick stop at Tesco for supplies – champagne (to toast our friends’ 30th wedding anniversary and our 40th), wine, something for supper, and a pay as you go sim card with top-up card for my unlocked iPhone.

It must have been roadworks season because when we got the B9002 that would take us to Kennethmont, it was closed at the end where it joined the A97. Luckily, there was another road that would take us past the closure without having to go way our of our way.

We spent an enjoyable evening with our friends, drank one of the two bottles of champagne (deciding to keep the second one for our last night with them).

#Scotland 2015 Day 3 – Oban to Inverness

#Scotland 2015 – Sept 13, 2015

This morning we were greeted with blue sky and a rainbow – a vast improvement over yesterday’s pouring rain.

view from our room at High Cliff

The first leg of our journey was from Oban to Glenfinnan – the monument and the viaduct.

Our Vauxhall Astra Estate in a layby along Loch Linnhe
The Glenfinnan Monument commemorating the last Jacobite Rising

At one time we were members of the National Trust for Scotland which gave us free entry to their properties but we let it lapse when my mum got sick and it looked like we wouldn’t be travelling abroad for quite some time. We could have climbed to the top of the monument for a fee but seeing it and Loch Shiel were more than enough.

Loch Shiel

The other thing we wanted to do in the area was walk under the Glenfinnan Viaduct. In 2013, we took the Jacobite Steam Train from Fort William to Mallaig over this amazing structure so it only seemed fitting that we saw it from a different perspective.

Glenfinnan Viaduct

As impressive as the viaduct is when you ride the train over it, it’s even more so from below.  The stone masons who built this huge structure were skilled to the “nth” degree.

However, as much as we were captivated by this area, we had to carry on to Inverness.

Our next stop en-route was the Commando Monument near Spean Bridge. This has been erected adjacent to the main A82 road to Inverness.

The Commando Monument erected in memory of the men who died during WWII
scenery near the Commando Monument

At this point, we knew we weren’t going to make our anticipated check-in time at Acorn House in Inverness so we called there and pushed our arrival time back to 17:00 and passed on the side trip out to the Witch’s Cauldron.

We made it to Acorn House well in advance of our revised time and were given a warm welcome.

Our room at Acorn House
Our room at Acorn House

Once settled in our lovely room, we set out in search of supper. I had seen Indian food on google maps and we found a wonderful place in the city, well withing walking distance of the Guest House.

The atmosphere at Rajah was excellent as was the food, service and price. Highly recommended place to go for an authentic meal.

Well fed and content, we made our way back to the guest house and settled in for the night.

#Scotland 2015 Day 2 – Glasgow Airport to Oban

#Scotland 2015 – Sept 12, 2015

The misadventures of yesterday continued…

After our late departure from Toronto last night, we landed half an hour ahead of schedule in Glasgow. The landing wasn’t super rough or anything but the oxygen masks a few rows up on the other side of the plane dropped when we touched the ground. According to the flight attendants, that was normal.

The time we gained in the air, we lost waiting to clear customs. The only good thing about that was we didn’t have to wait for our bags – they were waiting for us.

Off to the car rental desk. We’d already been upgraded to a larger car (Ford Focus) because we had booked so early but one look at the amount/size of our luggage, we were upgraded again but this time not free. £10/day for the upgrade. Then there was roadside assistance and the pay in advance for fuel so we could bring the car back on fumes or as close to as we could and it still be running… LOL! We ended up with a Vauxhall Astra Estate. Unfortunately, this one wasn’t a 6-speed diesel like we got on our last trip.

The weather gods were against us. It was only 12C in Glasgow and teeming down with rain.

We did take the A83 to the A816 and into Oban this year and the road was far superior to the A82 which we used the last time.

near Rest and be Thankful

We booked in again at High Cliff Guest House.

High Cliff Guest House (our room was the upper left and middle window) – the Lismore room

Unable to check in until 4:00 pm, we left the car there (as per their sign) and headed in the direction of the Oban Distillery. The tours were fully booked but we were invited to go upstairs to their tasting bar where we could sample as many single malts for £3/dram.

The Oban Distillery

Tomorrow we’re off to Inverness with a few side trips along the way. But for today it will be an early night and get ourselves onto Scottish time.


#Scotland 2015 Day 1 – Toronto to Glasgow

#Scotland 2015 – Sept 11, 2015

Things didn’t get off to the most auspicious of starts for our trip. First thing in the morning, we tried to do the ‘pre-board’ from home. Well, our flight wasn’t even listed! Suffice it to say, panic ensued.

A call to the airline confirmed that our flight really was scheduled – the website wasn’t refreshing properly and the flights listed on it were for the previous day. Being booked on Option Plus, gave us priority handling and boarding at the airport anyway, so not being able to pre-board from home wasn’t a huge problem.


We made it to Toronto without incident and whizzed through security and out to our departure lounge. There was a plane at the gate with the outer and inner engine cowling open and hubby found out that it was our plane. Doesn’t give you a warm fuzzy. Apparently, it had been in the hanger for about 4 weeks and almost forgotten about.

It was well after dark by the time the engine cowling was closed and the baggage went on. We were to start boarding at 9:15 but that was delayed by 15-20 minutes.

While we were waiting at the gate while the crew did the pre-flight checks, the power on the plane went off. By now, we were beginning to wonder about our decision to fly on 9-11. They always talk about the emergency lighting on the floor – well, it showed up really well. So now we know if we ever need it, we’ll be able to see it.

We were finally on the plane. Not the first row with only two seats near the back but the second. Actually, these were better seats because the tray tables were attached to the backs of our seats.

Despite being behind schedule in the beginning, we were in the air and on our way… with an anticipated landing half an hour earlier.

Option Plus doesn’t have all the perks of Club Class but it’s still worth the money. We had booked this last year when we flew to Paris but were upgraded to Club by the airline (possibly because of my gimpy leg) so we had no idea what Option Plus was like.

Once we got to cruising altitude, we each received a 200 ml bottle of Bottega Gold Prosecco. With our meals, we got a bottle of wine – our choice of red or white. I chose the red (what else is new) Whistling Thorn Shiraz and hubby the Whistling Thorn Sauvignon Blanc.  Best of all, the extra 10 kilos on our baggage allowance so we won’t have to worry (quite so much) about overweight bags when it comes time to come back to reality.