The morning came early for all of us as we had to pack up and be on the road for our respective airports. The main group had a little bit more time as they were heading off to Dublin airport back to the States. The rest of us, 12 in all, were off to Shannon Airport and the next leg of our journey, Edinburgh.
Mick thanked us for visiting his country and as we pulled up to the airport, he said, "You're lovely people, now get off of me bus!" A thick fog covered the airport and the sun was working hard to break through it. But we paid no heed as we checked in, got our tickets, changed our euros to pounds, and headed toward the gate.
We had about 90 minutes before the plane departed, so some of us ordered some tea while the rest of us looked around the duty-free shop. About 90 minutes later, we noticed that the departure sign had our flight delayed. And so we waited, and waited, and waited. Brian's relatives from England arrived at the lounge, heading off to Bristol. And they waited with us as well. The fog threw a monkey wrench into our flights, and Brian's relatives ended up with their flight to Bristol canceled and forced to book on our flight to Edinburgh. The upside of it was that we were able to visit much more with them, but the downside was that it wasn't until 1:30 in the afternoon that we managed to get out of Shannon Airport.
We took a puddle jumper over to Scotland. It was a turbo prop plane and I settled into my seat and started counting ring forts as the plane climbed to 19,000 feet. In a matter of minutes, I had counted about 13 ring forts when sleep overcame me. I woke to the sound of the captain announcing that we were descending into Edinburgh.
Two drivers were waiting to take us into the old city. On greeting them I stumbled headlong into deciphering the Scottish burr.
"What's your name?" I asked my driver.
"Liermrum,” I thought he said.
"Liam?" I asked.
"No," he said, "Liernumnun."
"I'm sorry," I said, "What is the name?"
"How about Bob?" He said.
Finally I made him spell it. It turned out his name was Nairn. With the Scottish burr it sounded like "lee-arum" with the proper rolling of the tongue on the "r".
He turned out to be a wonderful guy and we had a long talk. I questioned him about fishing and Scotland. He explained that he had just returned from Africa where, as an avid fisherman, he went after a fish called the tiger fish. He described it as the fiercest fighting fish he had ever met. He was hoping to get to the United States as he had heard about some of the excellent fishing in Colorado. He had spent some time in Alberta and had done some fishing up there. It was nice to be able to talk about fishing, but I certainly would have loved to have a rod and reel and try some on this last tour.
We all checked into our hotel and about an hour later we met in the lobby. That is, everyone except for Brian. We were wondering what happened to him when I received a phone call from Brian. He said that he was lost in the stairwell and that he had no way of getting out. Of course, it took one of the concierges to track him down and free him from his prison. Apparently, if he was to go through the door on the first floor, it would've triggered a fire alarm and he could not get back onto the floor he just left. It was a good thing he remembered his phone, or that might have been the last we would have seen of him.
Our good friend from Edinburgh, George Philp, arrived. And he greeted each member of our tour like long-lost friends. We met George way out in WaKeeney, Kansas during the Beltane festival of "Th Gatherin.” George had found out about this event when surfing the Internet one day, and intrigued, decided to head over with two of his buddies and see what these crazy Americans were up to. It turned out he was blown away by this amazing Scottish festival being held on the High Plains. He became fast friends with Seamus Cleland, who organized the festival, and ourselves.
We went to a nearby restaurant and George helped some of the guys pick out some good Scottish ales to drink. After a quick meal we hurried down to St. Giles Cathedral, as we had reservations for the ghost tour.
We walked through the vaults with our guide, Hannah, and she told us about the various spirits that haunted each vault. I couldn't say I met one exactly, though there was one instance that I did see a little flicker of light traveling across the room when I ventured back to a dark vault to take a picture. In one room, Nancy Wisniewski thought that I was teasing her and touched her hair, when I and her husband Lenny were actually standing two paces behind her. And, in a room that was considered the most haunted, Andy Arnold's phone went a little haywire when he used it as a flashlight. Whether these were all auto suggestions from the tour itself or whether there were indeed spirits, we will never know. But from a historical perspective, it was sad and extremely interesting to get a glimpse at the hardship and squalor that existed in early Victorian Scotland.
We finished the ghost tour and ventured to one of the many pubs that line the Royal Mile. There we met spirits of another kind, the ones that the Scots are also well known for. We toasted our first day in Scotland and looked forward with anticipation for the next day touring the borderlands.
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