Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Jae and Jim Take The Family To Scotland!

Pictures of the holiday can be found here

So, my holiday began on Wednesday with a lunch trip to Needoo Grill in Whitechapel. It's shame Whitechapel is such a ghetto, as Needoo Grill is absolutely awesome. The south Asian cuisine was so very, very tasty. I recommend the peshwari naan and the pakoras. Yum, yum, yum! We spent some time in the local and lazed the day away.

Thursday, and Jim and I headed up to Luton as part of "Jae's Mission Never To Be Late For A Plane". On the way up, along the M1, spotted some sort of falcon (no, it wasn't a kestrel!) sitting on a fence. Very beautiful.

Luton, unfortunately, not so beautiful. We stayed overnight at the Leaside Gastrotel, which was nice. The room was big (we stayed in Room 101 which, as well as giving us a good laugh, suffered severely from road noise), the bar was comfy (with lovely Stella Triple Filtered on tap), and the food divine. I've been to Italy, but I had the tastiest pizza ever on Thursday night. Luton itself was a bit... dire. Another ghetto, where the only sign of a bit of class was the Polish organic food shop.

Friday, we woke up early and had a pleasant breakfast at the Gastrotel. It was pretty quiet, but the one other guy there was a God. He was MT... with a little bit of bulk. I.e. he was my perfect man. I informed Jim, and Twitter, that my life was now complete and we made our way to the airport.

Luton Airport... was actually not that bad. The security staff were less rude than Heathrow and the queue moved far more quickly despite being about ten times bigger. I still had to remove my boots but we can't have everything. Jim and I relaxed in the executive lounge until Mum, Stuart and the twins arrived, whereupon we had to rough it with the plebs at the bar.

Despite going straight to the gate when the flight was called, I was still near the back of the queue and, this being Easyjet (*shudder*), I was thus forced to take a normal seat. Proof, if needed, that I am unable to fit into a normal seat (my legs literally could not even be forced to go either side of the seat in front, instead I was squashed to one side). The pain is indescribable but thankfully the flight to Glasgow is a short one. I was soooooo pleased to pull myself out of that plane with my legs still in working order.

The trip to Lochgoilhead was easy as usual. It's nice I now recognise the journey, around Loch Lomond, up to Loch Long, then a left at the Rest and Be Thankful and down through the Argyll Forest Park to Lochgoilhead. We were staying at Drimsynie again but things would be a little different this time.

Firstly, instead of staying in one of the Toblerone chalets, we were in a much larger house (virtual tour here). It was lovely, clean and modern. We, of course, bagsied the en-suite room.

Secondly, curling was off. A week or so ago they had phoned to say the curling rink had a problem with it's ice. We decided to go anyway but even though the ice actually was fixed by the Saturday, we were no longer in the mood. The worst part of this was that most of the other people who would normally be there had cancelled their curling trips and thus the entire place seemed deserted and ghost like.

Thirdly, nothing went right. Nothing went "wrong" as such. But the usually efficient organisation and communication just wasn't there. Our breakfasts weren't booked in. Our lunches were booked in but no one told us. Our leisure passes were forgotten. They were minor niggles that were easily sorted but they have put Jim off ever going back again.

And finally... on Saturday and Sunday we decided to mix things up a little.

But firstly, Friday night. We had meals from the bar and settled in for an evening of kareoke. There were no cuties and it was almost a no go at all but two absolutely rat-arsed Scottish guys and a few out of key locals soon had us tapping our feet and trying to hold back laughter. It was great until three local teenage girls got up and forced us to leave the building as their singing was worse than bad... it was truly awful.

Saturday saw us have our first proper breakfast (think potato scones and black pudding...) and then we undertook our first adventure... a boat and fishing trip out on Loch Goil. We set out in our little boat and headed down to Carrick Castle, via the seal colony, and occasional stopped to fish (no success there, but still very fun). We had a very inquisitive seal visit the boat a couple of times but I was most taken with seeing a black-throated diver "flying" under water in an attempt to catch our spinners. Absolutely gorgeous.

The clouds had been low when we set off, but whilst we were fishing off Carrick Castle we failed to notice it had lowered even further and a very thick fog now lay between us and our dock at the north of the loch. We were on the far side of the loch and wanted to get to the other side in order to follow the shore northwards... but the fog moved over us as we reached the middle... and we were lost.

I don't want you to think I'm overplaying this, but the fog gave visibility was only 15m and the still waters only added to the sense we were in some grey bubble. We pottered along for a while in search of the shore but soon wiser heads run over and we stopped the engine. We had no way of knowing we weren't going around in circles. About to call for help, Jim managed to get a GPS signal on his phone and with him at the helm, Stuart navigating by GPS and the rest of us shivering, counting our supplies (2 Jaffa Cakes!!!! AH!!!) and keeping look out we were able to find shore and move north.

When we arrived at the dock, 5 minutes early!, we discovered a rather relieved looking boat owner. He was obviously pretty concerned at having a group of tourists out in one of his boats in the fog, but thankfully old seadog Jim had seen us through to safety... if with a little added adventure.

Saturday night's Dinner/Dance had been cancelled due to the fact there was no one about so instead we had dinner in the Green Room restaurant in Drimsynie House Hotel and then went down to the bar for the band "So Driven", who were quite good but we didn't stay long as my sister was "feeling ill" (for which read attempting to get between Mum and Stuart. Aww... to be a teenager and have a step dad... those were the days!).

The next day we decided to be even more adventurous and, for the first time in my four visits to Lochgoilhead, we left the confines of the village and headed out to explore Scotland!

Our first destination was Glen Coe. The scenery on route was glorious, reminding me that there really is more to this country than London and the big towns. The bitter cold was relieved at a rest stop over looking Lake Tulla with a lovely square sausage sandwich and a cup of tea. At Glen Coe I headed for the gift shop first where I spent so much money on books (one about my family's Clan Davidson history... everyone can have a Scottish Clan history, get yours soon!) and Christmas presents that the guy behind the till gave me some Scottish tablet free and informed me that my family would always be welcome at Glen Coe. Given that this was the scene of the Glencoe massacre, I have to say I've done my bit for inter-British relations!

The visitors centre was informative but wildly expensive for what it was. Thankfully the beauty of Glen Coe more than made up for it.

Then it was onwards to Fort William and Ben Nevis. Sadly... the weather didn't hold. By the time we had made it around Loch Linnhe, the clouds had come down and Ben Nevis was no where to be seen. So I've been near this country's tallest mountain but still failed to see it. Damn it.

After a quick trip to Morrison's it was back to Lochgoilhead, dinner in the Green Room and a night in watching DVDs.

And then it was Monday... breakfast, Glasgow airport and home again (50 minutes from Luton to the Sun in the Sands roundabout [i.e. about a mile and a half from home] and 1 hour from there to the house thanks to a Blackwall Tunnel disaster of some description. Grr.)

Shout out to Luton Airport Car Parkz who made the start and end of the trip so bloody relaxing and trouble free. Excellent service at a good rate.

This blogger works for nothing but the joy of writing but always appreciates things bought from his wishlist

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