I’m trying, I really am.
I’m trying to get super excited about Scotland, much as I tried a year ago to get jazzed about Ireland.
We know how that turned out: I bought a flight to Dublin only to exchange it a week later for a flight to Paris. It was after I studied the destination with a flea comb, burrowed into my research, only to arrive at the great existential query: What am I thinking? (I ask this frequently in my life.)
I’m sure Ireland is splendid, despite the fact that pubs, pubs and pubs are invariably named the top experience in everything I read. A friend just returned from Dublin and said it’s terrific — for two or three days. Then you run out of things to do. At that point, of course, you rent a car for the verdant countryside and … yawn, you lost me.
I’m an urban traveler. I seek culture, cuisine, cobblestone. Art, edifices, bustling humanity and idiosyncratic neighborhoods. I also seek cool climates — I’m done sweltering in the tropics — for summer travel. Last July I went to Buenos Aires to, among many reasons, escape our heat. I slipped on my jacket each day with a big grin.
And so, Scotland. I’m eyeing a May trip to the capital Edinburgh and Glasgow, the largest city in the country, both of which brim with museums, castles, street art, music (here is where I make peace with bagpipes), hearty food (do I dare try haggis?) and, a-ha, whisky. May weather hovers in the mid-50s and below and I’m already happily shivering.
Like Ireland, Scotland is comprised of highlands, lowlands, islands, cliffs, crags, rolling pastures and billowing grass. It’s lousy with forts and castles. It doesn’t look like I’ll get into all that, though I might be whisked away on a day trip. I probably should.
Maybe I’ll spot Nessie, the wondrous Loch Ness Monster, and hitch a ride on her mythical scaly back through the chill waters. (As a kid, I used to love Nessie, that bashful and elusive lake dinosaur. I thought she and Bigfoot should get married.)
I am a wee nervous about the language, specifically the knotty Scottish brogue, which contorts familiar English into musical pretzels and thick-tongued tootles that leave some of us wincing with incomprehension. I once worked with a native Scot named Alan Black and I couldn’t understand a damn word he said. We got along swimmingly, but I’m sure I missed 60 percent of what he was telling me.
This worries me, the rogue brogue. I’ll be made the fool by cheery locals who will snicker at me between sips of lager and Glenfiddich, doing spit takes. I’ll be the dumb American carrying around an ear funnel, going, “What’s that, mate?”
I can do this. The more I excavate, the more Scotland attracts. I’m thinking seven days between the two cities, yet there’s more to explore. The trip could get longer, epic, out of control. It could go from a jaunt to a journey. I like that. (Cue: “Loch Lomond.”)