This winter was a little on the long side, and it seemed to begrudgingly give up snow and ice for warm temperatures. Snowbirds this year played it smart if they were able to extend their time in the South. Others with resources, took shorter trips to the Caribbean for a recharge with sun and surf.
Getting to Europe is not difficult with a multitude of airline options. Used to be a person could go by boat, but most ships today tend toward a luxury experience and it costs at least double or more for the fare. Flying is the ticket, unless you want your clothes with you.
It's uncomfortable if you must make do without clean clothes for four days. I should have known at check-in when I overheard one of the baggage people say, "We can't assign a number to her luggage this way, but if we use this back door, we can get it done." In this case, back door meant out the door.
Even with this glitch, we adapted and made our way to Oban, on the West Coast. Our luggage was to follow. We had been there before and loved it. It's also the gateway to the Isle of Mull and the small island of Iona, one of the earliest settlements of Christianity in Scotland. This spot was also our doorway to the island of Staffa, the east end of the Giant's Causeway, a geological formation that starts across the Irish Sea in Northern Ireland. It is also an excellent place to see Puffins, a favorite bird of my wife.
The trip across calm seas to Staffa was uneventful. The boat offloaded us and we made our way up a steep metal stairway to the island's plateau, clinging to steel cables on the way up. The Puffins were everywhere. They come in by the hundreds because they know when the tourists come, the Golden Eagles stay away.
On the way down to the boat, my wife slipped on a muddy section of the trail, and despite the assistance of a walking pole, fractured her fibula in her left leg. Getting down the steps to the boat took some time. The crew on the boat were extremely helpful and the medical care once we returned to Oban was caring and professional. But, hiking anywhere during the rest of the journey was over.
During this trip we rented a SUV to get around. It was a high-end vehicle, diesel, like most vehicles in the United Kingdom, with a fuel and pollution saving start-stop feature. The only hitch was, one time it stopped and then refused to start, right before entering a roundabout; nothing, nada, kaput-couldn't even get the four way flashers to work! After phone calls to the rental company and negotiations, it was towed away and we caught a cab to our next destination-Edzell Castle. A retired firefighter and local police officers made the three hour wait tolerable.
They say things happen in threes. This was certainly the case on this journey. The ancestral home was more than a pile of rocks as had been reported to us before. It was well worth the effort. The broken bone is healing and the UK's Guinness beats the heck out of what we get here!
More of Doug's writings can be seen at www.douglewandowski.com.