Jon & Vic's 1999 Scotland Trip - Photos
A nice shot on top of Observatory Hill in Edinburgh
Posing with one of the locals at Edinburgh Castle
Right off St. Andrews Golf Course
On our way to the Highlands
Jon & Vic's 2000 Scotland Trip Report & Photos
Day 1 - Friday night Saturday July 28-29 2000
The trip started wet. With major storms on the east coast and storms hitting St. Louis most of the day Friday the 28th, our time of departure was pushed back from 7:20pm to a little past 10. Lambert Airport was a major mess with the weather delays and the Trans World Express pilot walk-out. But when the time came, Vic and I were called up for First Class boarding to Gatwick. Uneventful, but an enjoyable flight. We landed in Gatwick to learn that our connecting flight on British Airways had left two hours before we landed. Gatwick was also a mess due to the start of the major vacation time in the UK. All flights were full. So we started looking for options. With the help of some very friendly British Airways personnel, we weighed our options and decided to try for a flight out of Heathrow the following day at 2 p.m. So we took an expensive, hour-long bus ride to Heathrow. And we managed to find a hotel for the night. By the time we got to the hotel, it was dinnertime. We found a little pub called The Pheasant about a mile from the hotel where we had our first fish and chips meal, and StrongBow cider. It didn't take us long to realize that after having one cider, we were both dead tired. So we crawled back to the hotel and hit the sack.
Day 2 - Sunday July 30th 2000
We got a fair amount of sleep that night and got prepared for the second attempt at Edinburgh. We finally made it to Edinburgh to the great site of Mom and Dad waiting for us. We were disappointed we lost almost 2 days of vacation, but it gave Mom and Dad time to clean the apartment up after their last visitors. After visiting for a bit, and having a little dinner, we all got ready for our first adventure…Elton John. For the past year Elton John has been doing a solo tour around the UK at smaller venues. So when word came down that he was going to play the Edinburgh castle, Dad and Mom were quick enough to purchase a set of tickets for all of us. Elton John played for three hours non-stop…no breaks…just him and his piano. And we had seats 20 rows up on the floor. It was a great concert. He played all the favorites plus a lot of old tunes.
Day 3 - Monday July 31st 2000
Dad had to work this one-day. So Vic, Mom and I went into town for some touring and shopping. Millennium Clock on the Royal Mile. Unfortunately the weather went to crap very quickly. Mom bought us another umbrella and continued to shop the Royal Mile down from the castle. Vic and Mom visited one of the tartan/textile museums and even wove a bit of tartan. I went across the street for a Scotch Whiskey tour…including a wee dram which I'm slowly getting used to. We had lunch at a little sandwich shop and tried to dry off a bit. Still raining, we made our way down to one of the local malls where we shopped a little more. After five hours of shopping (But will it fit in our suitcase?), we made our way back to the flat for a little nap and dinner. While I slept, Mom and Vic ran out for even more shopping at the charity shops near the flat. They came back with some sweets that we ate after dinner with a few Scrumpy Jacks ciders. Monday night we packed a few things up in our bags again for the next adventure, which started at 4 am the next morning…Ireland.
Day 4 - Tuesday August 1st 2000
Reveille was at 4 am on Tuesday to make the trip to the airport via cab. We boarded an Air Lingus flight to Dublin, Ireland around 6:30am. After landing, we picked up our car for what was to be a four or five hour drive to the East Coast of Ireland to the Dingle. Ireland's road system is anything but adequate -- two lanes of traffic with hardly any signs. Dad did great. We stopped at a couple small towns on the way for snacks and a pint of Guinness.
Through rain and road congestion, we made it…but his estimate was a bit off. Eight hours later we arrived in Dingle. Dingle is on the edge of the East Coast and is a seaport and large tourist draw with its impressive cliffs and ruins. Checking at the local tourism office, we reserved rooms at a little bed and breakfast just outside of town.
We checked in and made a dinner reservation for later in the evening. We left for dinner a little early to get some shopping in before dinner. Vic found some nice things and dad and mom bought a CD of Irish flute music. We had dinner at a nice restaurant that had some great selections straight from the sea. Great food. We retired that night and had plans to drive around the Dingle Peninsula to see some more of the fantastic views and scenery in the morning before our trip back to Dublin.
Day 5 Wednesday - August 2nd 2000
As we had breakfast, the weather looked like it might break a bit. It didn't. We checked out of the B&B and started our trip around the peninsula. We got to the first stop, which was an ancient fort. Just as we got to the site, it started to pour…and not just straight down but sideways. Our umbrellas were useless. By the time we all made it back to the car, we were all soaked. After our realization that we were not going to be able to see anything off the cliffs or be able to walk around too much outside, we decided to make the trip back to Dublin.
With a couple of stops, along the way, Dad drove back across the country of Ireland for a second time in as many days. When we finally got there, Dad dropped off the car at the airport and we took a cab into the heart of Dublin. We checked into our hotel, which was strategically picked due to its central location around the sights in Dublin. After check-in we made our way down to the area of town known as the Temple Bar. The Temple Bar area is a large group of shops and pubs that meet all kinds of people's tastes. We made our way into one of the Irish pubs that offered live music. We enjoyed our meals and listened to band. We then made our way to another local pub that was one of the very first pubs to be opened in the area. We had a couple more pints and watched some of the locals dancing to the live band. The four of us closed the bar at 11:30 and made our way back to the hotel. We all slept well that night…especially Dad.
Day 6 - Thursday - August 3rd 2000
Thursday was our full day in Dublin to see the sights and do some more shopping. After a fine breakfast at the hotel we proceeded to the Guinness Brewery. The brewery had a lot of memorabilia and a nice little display about its history. And, of course, the free sample room-which was in fact a bar. While enjoying our fresh Guinness at 10 a.m., we were approached by a woman who worked for Guinness and asked if Vic and I would help them with a little market research. They pulled us out of the pub and took us over to their office building where they asked us questions on what will eventually be a Guinness Travel Agency that will be online. We answered their questions and got paid 5 punts…about 7 dollars. We went back to the pub where we continued onto the gift store. Leaving the brewery we continued to one Christ Church Cathedral where Mom and Vic went in and saw the sights, including Strongbow and other things. Dad and I sat outside and enjoyed the sun and nice weather that had seemed to elude us for some time. We then walked to a large area of shops and stores where it seemed the entire population of Dublin was…very crowded. After a couple more hours of shopping and roaming around the mall, we made our way back to the hotel again. We took a brief nap before dinner across the street at another great pub. That night we spent a little time in the hotel playing a card game with the folks while snacking on sweets and sipping tea. We went to bed that night and slept until 4 am the next morning for the trip back to Edinburgh.
Day 7 Friday - August 4th 2000
Waking early, we took a cab to the airport where we had a snack of sweet rolls and soda. The flight went fine and we arrived in Edinburgh on time. From there Dad rented another car for the rest of our visit with them. By 9 am, we were on the road for another adventure out of town. We made our way up through Perth to Pitlochry for the Heather Gems store, which has become a bit of a tradition for Mom and Dad. Vic filled her orders and requests from her co-workers and family for rings, bracelets and other assorted goodies. After the stop there we bought lunch at a local place and took it with us to the Killiecrankie Pass which Mom and Dad had recently found outside of town that had a great view. We had lunch and enjoyed the wonderful view into the Highlands. After lunch we went to an area just out side of Blair Castle to view some incredible water falls out of the mountains. It was a small hike up the hill but the view was brilliant. We took some pictures and climbed around on the rocks for a bit. Then we got back into the car for the trip back to Edinburgh, back to the flat…for our next "to do" thing. One of the main highlights of the trip was this night. Mom and Dad had scheduled a dinner out with two couples they made friends with from the Bank. Derek and Fiona & Aileen and Kenny Sword. We met them at the Bee Hive pub for drinks then onto a French restaurant for the meal. Here Vic and I got to talk with and get to know two very fun Scottish couples. We got to try some mussels and Black pudding (a mixture of blood and corn meal). And we drank a number of Kronnenberg ales and more than a couple bottles of white and red wine. By the end of the dinner, everyone was having a great time. Leaving the restaurant, we waited at the bus stop for the next bus to the flat, during which time a limo approached with a young woman hanging out of the top sunroof. I had to give out a little catcall to the woman, who was then kind enough to show us her breasts. Mom missed it but Vic, Dad and I got quite a view. The bus took us to the top of the hill on Princes Street where we made the walk down to the flat where we retired from a long day to prepare for another tomorrow.
Day 8 Saturday - August 5th 2000
Today was our trip to one of the favorite castles that Mom and Dad has visited in the area. It was about an hour and a half drive to the Donnottar Castle on the edge of the sea. As soon as we get our pictures developed, I'll be posting them on the website. But until then, just believe me, it was an incredible castle. The castle stands on a rock surrounded on three sides by the sea with a steep climb up to its flat area. We spent a good amount of time climbing around on and in the castle and took lots of video and pictures. After we thoroughly saw Donnottar, Dad drove us back to the flat to get ready for our first of two shows. Dad and I dropped Vic and Mom off at the Royal History Museum of Scotland in the city for a quick tour. They then did a quick run through of the art museum before catching the next bus to the flat. At this point, I started the challenging feat of trying to fit all our new goodies into our bags for the trip home. Vic and I arrived in Edinburgh during the beginning of the Fringe festival, which is a huge arts/show/entertainment event that includes much theatre, parades and art shows in the city. Early in our visit, Dad asked which ones interested us and if we would like to see them on Saturday and Sunday night. We of course said yes. So tonight was our first show: Cookin'. It was kind of like Stomp but with four Koreans that are in a kitchen banging around on pots and pans and throwing food around. Very funny. Afterward, we made our way back to the flat for some rest and to get ready for the Highland Games on Sunday, but not without a quick stop into the Jekyll and Hyde pub to look for the secret bathrooms behind the bookcases and have another pint of ale.
Day 9 Sunday - August 6th 2000
Our last full day in Scotland. We awoke with the weather looking almost good outside, so Vic and I put on our only pair of shorts and started the day. Remember Day 7 when we had dinner with two Scottish couples? Well, one of the women, Aileen, happened to work for a local hospital. She was kind enough to give us a tour. So we all drove up to the Children's' Hospital in Edinburgh where Vic and Mom got a VIP tour of the facilities. Both were very impressed and happy to be able to see hospital. From there, Dad navigated his way out of town once again for the last time to our last adventure…The Highland Games. Vic's one request of this vacation was to see men in skirts…well this was the place. On to North Berwick --- where the games were taking place, about thirty minutes outside of Edinburgh. The Highland Games are actually held most of the summer in many different locations. It was a lot like a State Fair or local festival. There were carnival rides and little prize booths. There were busloads of bag pipers all over the place from all different locations…including a group from Connecticut. They marched out onto a field where they were judged in numerous categories. Along with the drumming sections, there was a lot of bag piping going on. Highland dancing was taking place on a small stage with young girls dancing to bag pipe music. On the adjacent field, the heavy weight competition was taking place. There were about eight very large men competing in five different events, which basically required one thing…strength. There were two different weighted shot puts for distance…one of which was 30 lbs. Also included was the hammer lob (#1, #2) which had to be cancelled because one of the guys broke the weight. The idea of this event was to loft a 56 lb weight with a chin handle up over your head to clear an elevated bar set at a specific height (12 feet), kind of like a pole vault bar set up. Not only do these guys have to throw this thing up into the air…they have to dodge it as it comes back down. Then there was the hammer throw which involved theses guys spinning around and around with a shot put attached to a three-foot pole then letting go. Let's just say the crowd had to be on their toes for this one. Two of the throws came really close to hitting the audience. And finally the caber-toss. The caber is a telephone-pole-sized log about 20 feet long weighing 130 pounds. The idea of this event is not to see how far one can be thrown, but to make the caber go end over end and land in straight line from the thrower. Sounds easy huh…two of the guys almost fell over after picking the thing up in 20 mph winds off the sea, and only half of them even got it to go end over end. Way cool to see, and another one of our favorite things to experience while we were here. So around 4 in the afternoon, we all return to the car for the trip back to town for our second fringe show…Mac Homer. A quick stop at the flat and we were on our way. Mac Homer is a rendition of Mac Beth done by one guy doing all the characters and voices with a twist…he uses all the characters and voices of The Simpsons. Now here was talent. Mac Beth is not an easy play to follow. But just imagine that this guy was able to do it using every single character from The Simpsons and incorporate it into this play. It was amazing. Jeff, you would have loved it. Every character was used…from Homer all the way to Mole Man. With a few other voices like Sean Connery and OJ Simpson thrown in. After the play, he did a rendition of Queen's "Nothing Really Matters" incorporating 25 different lead singers of different bands. It was quite entertaining. After the play we had a nice dinner at the local Pizza Hut and finished off the night with a pint at the Cumberland Street Pub. It was our last pint before the trip home. So we finalized the packing…got everything together…and slept 5 hours before our 4 am wake up call in the morning.
Day 10 Monday - September 7th 2000
When we decided that we were going to try to fly standby to and from Gatwick, I knew that it was going to be a challenge. Getting there wasn't too bad with the flight loads. But coming home was looking bad two months before we even left. So I arranged a backup plan. As an airline employee, I am able to purchase what is called an ID-90 passes on other airlines. Depending on the airline, I can purchase standby tickets between 75% and 90% off the regular ticket price. So doing a little research at TWA, I chose two other airlines and bought two passes on each one: Delta and Virgin Atlantic. Thank God I did or we would still be in Gatwick. We had 5 chances to get out of the UK…and we got out on the 4th chance. First two flights were Delta 777s, both quite full. The big problem there was we were in line with 50 other standby passengers. And guess who was at the bottom of the list…yep, us. The next flight was TWA Flight 721, a Boeing 767-300…not a single standby passenger was put on and there were 8 waiting from the previous day's flight. So our next shot was a Virgin Atlantic 747-200 that would put into Orlando. After waiting in line for almost an hour, it paid off. We got on. And Virgin was quite a nice ride. Their coach meal was almost as good as TWA's first class meal. And each and every seat had a TV monitor that you could watch 11 different channels of movies. Or you could watch the aircraft's progress on a map display that showed altitude, location, outside temp, time remaining and all sorts of neat stuff. As you can imagine, the flight was full of kids…lots of them. So sleep was hard to get. Once in Orlando, we went through customs and went to the TWA ticket check in where we listed for first class on the next flight out to STL. We managed to get on the next flight out…but Vic got put into coach. I volunteered, but she gave me the seat. Three more hours later we were descending into a very stormy STL area. I can only describe the approach into Lambert as very different. Major thunderstorms had just left the area and more were about to move in. So the pilot shot through the two storms and made a fast approach to land right before the next storm hit. We deplaned and met Jamey and Jill at the gate who were nice enough to pick us up and drive us home through another huge thunderstorm. At this point we had been awake and traveling for 24 straight hours. We both lost a night of sleep completely. We got home to find our house and basement dry and humorously decorated by Dawn, one of Vic's friends from work, who had been looking after the ferrets for us. After a couple of quick showers and some phone calls we fell into bed, asleep before we hit the pillow.
And that was our trip to Scotland August 28, 2000 to September 7, 2000.
Thanks to everyone who made this trip such a great time for us.