Day 13 of UK Trip

I think it is official now – it has rained every day we have had the motor home.  Today started off with the sun out and it looked like it had cleared but as we headed further south so it became more overcast and by the time we had found the caravan park for this evening and settled in, it started to rain again (to be more precise it started raining just after Helen got back from the toilet and I was in the toilet).  Then it cleared up again later this evening and it was quite a nice evening but it started raining about 30 minutes ago (just when I needed the toilet again) and while I type this it is raining again.  It hasn’t spoiled the time we have had but it would have improved our enjoyment of the trip if we had better weather (meaning less rain).

This morning I was dreaming that an elephant was about to crush the motor home and I woke up with a fright only to realise that it was Helen jumping off the top bunk above me (I am going to pay for putting that comment in!).  It was 8:30am and everyone else was still asleep but Helen figured it was time to wake everyone up and so she did her Ninja impression by jumping off the top bunk.  It did the trick as everyone soon woke up and the morning routine kicked in.  Helen went for a shower and then when she got back, I went.  We figured that the Brits/Scots shower in the morning (their weekly shower) and obviously today was a popular day because we both found the showers to be quite full.  Even the basins were quite well used with those people not showering washing themselves in the basin (sans clothes … no I am not exaggerating).  When I showered the water pressure was so low that I wondered if I would be successful in getting the shampoo out (but I was fortunately otherwise it would have ruined my day).  All the time I was showering I kept telling myself not to leave the soap and shampoo in the shower and then tonight when Helen asked where the shampoo and soap were, I suddenly remembered that I had left them in the shower.  Fortunately it is the last evening so we will all follow the British example and skip showers tonight and tomorrow.  Hopefully they will let us check-in to the hotel in Edinburgh tomorrow despite the collective smell.

As I mentioned above, we drove south again this morning until we came to Oban.  Oban is a town directly east of the Isle of Mull and is the ferry port to Mull.  We thought we might go over to Mull but as we only got to Oban at 11:15 and then spent about one and half hours wandering around (and having ice creams and all buying an article of clothing – watch out for the kids Scottish shirts), we decided against it and rather started to head inland (east) back to Edinburgh.  We had driven through a nice town on the way out last Saturday and Helen had discovered it had 2 caravan parks, one of which was rated the best park in the UK in 2003.  That doesn’t really say much because I always wonder why they weren’t the best park in 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007 & 2008?  But we decided to head there anyway.  We stopped on the roadside for lunch which works really well except that when truck or another motor home pass by the whole motorhome shakes from side to side.

We got to the park at 3:15pm and found a good spot.  Probably the “levelest” spot we have found so far – we had kept the best for last (or we are getting better at picking the spots).  Helen and I decided to do some “reading” on our beds and when I next looked it was 5:45pm and I had only managed about 5 pages (I must learn to concentrate better).  The kids had occupied themselves with soccer, spying and who knows what while Helen and I ‘relaxed’.

Supper this evening was Spagetti & Tomato and cheese (one of my favourites) and we also had sauteed vegetables with Brie cheese (you probably can tell we were using up the last of the food).  We have done quite well with planning meals and supplies and I think tomorrow we will flatten most of the rest of what we have left before we drop off the motorhome.  Everyone is now asleep (as they should be, it’s 12:30am!).  We are only about an hour outside of Edinburgh so tomorrow morning will be spent packing up of things before we head out.

We discussed the trip today and everyone agrees that it wasn’t as good as our Irish motorhome holiday.  We think the reasons were:

1. Weather was better in Ireland (hard to believe but there we had 6 straight days of no rain vs 6 days of rain in Scotland)

2. More to do in Ireland (we stopped more often, drove less as there was more to see and do)

3. Nicer motorhome in Ireland (this one has been quite cramped and not as well designed)

4. Nicer campsites in Ireland (every Ireland campsite would be rated 5-stars here in Scotland – actually they might have to introduce a 6th star for Irish campsites)

It is not that we haven’t enjoyed ourselves, it is just that we enjoyed Ireland more.  The Irish trip is one of our top 3 all-time best holidays as agreed upon by everyone so it is hard to beat and it won’t be displaced by this trip (the other 2, for interest, were our Namibia trip last year and our Kruger trips – pick any one!).

This evening after supper I got a lot of instructions what I need to include in today’s update.  Helen wanted me to include that she never had a place to sit because Stephen, Michael and myself were always using the table with our laptops (she really does like to find poor things to complain about), Michael wanted me share something that I did which isn’t repeatable in writing (my parents might disown me and cut me out of their will), Stephen liked Michael’s suggestion (I still didn’t and still don’t) and Chloe probably wanted me to tell you how Michael keeps kicking her at night.  So hopefully that has sufficiently covered their wishes.

Good night (it is thundering at the moment and Helen has worriedly asked about being parked under a tree) … If you don’t hear from me tomorrow you will know why …

And watch out for the special guest appearances tomorrow through Sunday … you will have to wait and see who they are!

Day 12 of UK Trip

We woke up this morning with the sun pouring into the motorhome.  We forgot to close the skylight last night and so at about 5am the motorhome was already light and at about 7am it was flooded with sun.  I lay in bed in and sent some business emails with my blackberry while I waited for everyone else to surface.  Eventually my full bladder got the better of me and I got up and that inevitably woke up everyone else.  It was Stephen’s 13th birthday today so we now not only have a teenager on the house, we also have one in the motorhome!  The first order of business was for Stephen to get his presents we had brought with us (one very heavy one of an ESV Study Bible which we brought all the way from CT!).

We then started our day off with the usual breakfast – Shreddie’s for everyone except Helen who has found some kind of cinnamon cereal that she loves.  I think if we let her she would eat for it lunch and supper as well.  We didn’t really know what to do today as we had considered going to Isle of Skye or otherwise skipping it and heading further south.  We settled on driving to at least Kyle of Lochalsh which we have been to previously and is just before the bridge to cross over to Skye.  Unfortunately the further we drove south the worse the weather became and within 30 minutes of driving it was already raining.  It rained on and off while we drove.  A fairly large section of the road was single track again and as we were now nearing more civilisation than the North West section, it meant regularly stopping and pulling off again as we passed cars in the opposite direction.  Fairly tedious and tiring driving.  We got to Kyle of Lochalsh at 11:30am and as the weather wasn’t good we decide not to spoil our memories of Skye in the sun and rather to keep heading south.  We did some shopping in Kyle for lunch and also for cakes/pastries to celebrate Stephen’s birthday.

We then headed off south again and after about 10 miles we pulled over to eat our lunch.  Michael remarked how much he likes the motorhome because you have everything you need onboard – toilet, food & beds.  What more could you need especially if all the caravan parks had Wifi (like last night and again tonight).  After lunch we continued to head south as Helen and I had agreed that we would try for Glencoe for the evening.  The criteria was that we wanted a caravan park in or very near the town so that we could eat supper at a restuarant tonight to celebrate Stephen’s birthday.  It has to be in or near because once we have a stand we can’t give it up or someone else might take it.  So it has to be in walking distance so that we can leave the motorhome in its stand.

Shortly after we pulled off after lunch, the conversation with Helen started to dwindle and eventually when she didn’t answer at all I realised that either our marriage had hit a low point or she had simply fallen asleep.  Fortunately it turned out to be the latter as I could hear her snore shortly after.  Given the bumpy nature of the road, stopping and pulling off a few times (one ways due to roadworks) and even stopping to refuel, she slept on.  She told me this evening that she didn’t really have a good sleep though!?!  Fortunately the SPG was set and so I simply followed it until we actually hit Glencoe and then just as I was pulling into the Caravan site, Helen woke up.  We got here at 3pm so we had a lot more time just to unwind.  My back is really sore either from the bed or the driving (not sure which).  Michael (our commentator) said I must be getting old (he has the gift of encouragement).  Unfortunately it is really hurting and so I am going to take an anti-inflamatory just before I go to sleep and after I have finished typing this update.  Besides that, we are all well and enjoying the holiday – we have far more to be thankful for than to complain about.

Glencoe is a Scottish town with a lot of history.  Due to Helen’s guidebook reading we have discovered it was the place that the McDonalds while hosting the Campbells, ended up being slaughtered by the Campbells after a signal was given by the Campbell leader.  The whole McDonald clan in the area was wiped out.  The restuarant that we went to tonight (the only one in town) had a poem about the slaughter on the back of the menu.

The caravan park is a 5-star park.  Still haven’t figured out what gets the 5-stars but they have a small shop, toilet facilities are nice and clean and they have Wifi.  Their Wifi is a little more sophisticated than last nights (we paid £3 and all used the code). It cost £5 tonight and you get a unique code so that if someone else logs in, it kicks the other person out.  I didn’t like us sharing 1 between 4 of us so we bought 2 and I used one exclusively so I could catch up on some CBD work (Janet is sending me threatening emails so I need to make sure I get some of the work done).  Chloe, Michael and Stephen did some spying on the other people in the park.  Chloe was in search of TV sets (she counted 11 satellite dishes) and Michael/Stephen were looking for good looking girls (they found 2 according to their criteria).

We went to dinner at 6:30pm and walked about ½ mile before we realised that the restaurant wasn’t in that direction and so had to double back.  We got to the restaurant just before the heavens opened again and we left after it had finished raining so we really timed it well.  There is only one restaurant in town and they also do takeaways.  When we arrived there was no table free but the waitress kindly asked 2 men to move so we could have a table for the 5 of us.  They agreed and got to share with another couple – we thanked them profusely.  It was a quaint restaurant which seated about 20 people.  It was packed full and 2 sets of people also came in for takeaways.  Stephen and I had starters (Tomato and Basil soup).  There wasn’t a huge selection for the main courses – only 5 items on the menu but you could also chose from the takeaway menu.  I had pork loin, Stephen &  Michael had Chicken Breast, Chloe had a Cheese Burger and Helen had Salmon Quiche.  The food was very nice and everyone enjoyed their meals.

Stephen and Michael played outside for about an hour when we got back and Chloe cleaned the motorhome, made coffee for Helen and I and just generally entertained us with her antics.  When the boys came back, Stephen started messing around with his one birthday present – Adobe Photoshop which Grandpa had given him.  He tried to put Helen’s face onto Angelina Jolie’s body.  It was quite funny because the proportions never worked out so Helen’s head dwarfed Angelina’s body or she ended up with Angelina’s hair which looked even funnier.  It did amuse everyone though and so Michael and Chloe only ended up going to bed at 10:45pm.  Stephen played on until 11:30pm and finally fell asleep at 11:45pm.  Helen has just gone to sleep (12:15am) and I will shortly.  It isn’t really totally dark outside even though it is 12:25am at the moment – it still amazes me!

As the motorhome is definitely at a downward sloping angle tonight, Michael is likely to roll onto Chloe, I am likely to roll into the crack and hopefully Helen doesn’t roll off the top bunk.  Only Stephen (the birthday boy) gets to sleep with his feet below his head and seems comfortably asleep.

Well that’s it for tonight, sleep tonight, I hope the bed bugs don’t (or didn’t) bite.

Day 11 of UK Trip

I just love Caravan Parks with Wifi access.  Why didn’t some of the other caravan parks have it?  Only £3 as well – we definitely milked that £3 – 4 laptops all open and downloading emails, reading the news, getting the weather, playing games, uploading pics to the blog (there are some there now) etc.  This is what I call a 5-star caravan park – forget the state of the abolutions!

After some early mornings we decided to sleep in this morning and I got up first at around 8:30am.  Nothing like a full bladder to get you up.  As it was raining (again and just as I predicted in last nights Travelogue), I opted for the onboard option for early morning abolutions and was followed by some of the kids as well.  Helen went (despite the rain) to the abolution block.  After breakfast we headed out (at about 10am).  We continued West along the Northern border of Scotland.  It is very rugged terrain and despite the rain it was still beautiful.  The landscape is littered with sheep (I have to eat some lamb chops before we leave here).  Both Helen and I feel this side of Scotland is the much better side – if you ever come to Scotland skip the North East – it is not nearly as impressive as the North West.  Around lunch time the weather started to improve and the sun came out which made the landscape all the more impressive.  We followed the coastline until the road couldn’t go any further West and then we headed down South.

The road today was graded an ‘A’ road but for most of the way it was a single track road.  There are pull-off (or pull-over) places every 200 meters (or so) but it is still quite intense driving under those conditions especially when you are playing chicken with a truck to see who will pull off first.  Of course when I did that with a car coming in the opposite direction they just automatically pulled over.  Even though they tend to drive the single track lanes at 40 mph and above, we had no incidents or close shaves but it was hardwork for the driver.  I had to take a few breaks just to relax, stretch my legs and get in some fresh air.  We probably drove for about 100 miles on this road – as you can see quite a substantial distance.

We weren’t sure where we were going to stop this evening but headed for Ullapool.  Partly because we got their at just before 4pm and partly because everyone except Michael was sleeping, we decided to continue on and head for Gairloch which is on the North West Coast (parallel with the top of the Isle of Skye and the Hebrides Islands).  We had read in the guide book that there was (what sounded like) quite a fancy caravan park and so we went to it.  When we got there both Helen and I thought it was more like holiday park than a caravan park and that people who were there were not doing what we were doing.  It was also about 3 miles outside of town which means we couldn’t walk around the town.  So we headed back into town to the other caravan park and that is where we are now.  They only had 2 open stands left and we got number 2 which is overlooking the sea and only stand 1 is closer to the abolutions than us. Not sure why no one else chose it – it is even flat so no one gets to roll on top of anyone else tonight.  We have a round cheese which we use to check the levelness of the motorhome when we are parked.  Fortunately no one has eaten it yet otherwise our spiritlevel would be gone!  Tonight it didn’t roll front or back but it did roll (only slightly) from right to left.  This is the least of our concerns as it means that only Chloe is affected and she didn’t seem to care.

We went for a quick walk to get some provisions and found the local supermarket to much better inside than what it appeared to look like from the outside.  Despite it’s smallness, they must have stock a range of 30-40 whiskeys.  We got what we needed for supper and breakfast and then headed back to cook supper.  Our supper this evening was rice mixed with prawns, brocolli and peas.  Once again a really nice dinner given the limited facilities.

The rest of the evening was consumed by reading (either books or emails).  Chloe and Michael were first into bed at around 10:30pm but Chloe was still awake at after 11pm.  Stephen went to sleep about 30 minutes ago and Helen has just said good night.  It is now 12:15 and officially Stephen’s birthday – he is asleep so I don’t think I will wake him up to wish him!  The sun finally set at around 11:20pm this evening and it is now dark but it starts getting light again at about 2am.  Better get to sleep soon otherwise it will be sunrise before I have gone to sleep.

Cheers from all of us.

Day 10 of UK Trip

We woke up at 7:15am this morning so that we could make it in time to get the ferry across from Gill Bay to St Margaret’s which is on the Orkney Islands.  The ferry left at 9:30 but we had to be there to ‘check in’ at 8:45.  It had rained quite hard at times during the night and it did cross my mind that I hoped motorhome hadn’t sunk too far into the wet grass it was parked on.  Fortunately there were no issues in that regard and we pulled at about 8:10am.  We first had to refill the water tank (which takes about 10 minutes) and then we headed for the ferry.

The ferry wasn’t full as there were only about 20 cars, 3 motorhomes and 2 trucks.  They loaded the cars and trucks first and then lastly the motorhomes and as we were first we got to in first.  The only issue was that the guy said we had to reverse the motorhome into the ferry!  Now that is easier said than done.  The motorhome is about 6 meters long and there is basically no rear vision at all – only the side mirrors (and that isn’t great).  And I had to reverse it into a ferry through a very narrow on ramp… they must be kidding!  Fortunately I did manage to do it without damaging the motorhome or killing one of the ferry personnel.  Very proud of myself.  The guy behind us parked next to us and he was he finished parking he had a very ‘chuffed’ look on his face – he clearly was as proud of his achievement as I was.

The ferry trip took about an hour and even though it was cold on deck it was a really nice trip in that we ended up seeing numerous sea birds which you would only usually use on a pelagic trip.  We probably saw around 15 lifers today (including Puffins – Jenni we saw about 5 or 6) and about 10 of those during the ferry crossings.  It wasn’t raining anymore but it was still overcast but the clouds definitely seemed to be lifting and that proved to be true.  The ferry crossing was uneventful and we disembarked and started our anti-clockwise drive around the Orkney Islands.

While the weather started to clear and we got a really good view of the Orkney Islands, they were as spectacular as we expected.  While driving around, Helen reads the various guide books to me (the kids are too busy reading their own books) and so we have discovered some interesting facts about Scotland.  For instance, there 40 different words in Scotland to describe somebody who is drunk (I wonder why when there is so much whiskey and nothing really to do here … what do all these people do for a living is a constant thought we have), the only musical instrument to be classified as a weapon is the Bagpipes (Brian will no doubt agree with that), and the alcohol related deaths in Scotland is 3 times what it is in the rest of the UK (notice a trend).

We stopped at Orkney’s main town – Kirkwall – to get supplies for the rest of the day and then headed toward the northern most point.  To give you an idea of how far north we are – we are almost oppositie Norway (and very close to the same Longitude as the Baring Straights).  If you head West from the Orkney Islands there is pretty much nothing between here and Canada.  We stopped for lunch at one of the Northern points and then had a pleasant walk along the cliffs to see the breeding sites of the Gulls and Kittyhawks.  After lunch we headed to Stromness where we planned to sleep over for the night but as the Island is actually quite small we ended up getting there at 3pm.  I was going to reserve a spot on the ferry back tomorrow but as the next ferry was at 16:45 and the one tomorrow at 11am, we decided to take the 16:45 ferry and not waste the morning tomorrow.  The ferry back was much more impressive in that it was much bigger and didn’t require that I reverse the motorhome into it.  We again watched for sea birds on the deck and as the sun was out it was a very pleasant trip back.  It was slightly longer (1hr 30mins) as we left from further north and headed slightly further west.  We also got into discussion with an elderly couple from Kansas City who are touring around the islands and had spent time already on the Shetland and Orkney islands and were heading for the Hebrides.  Interesting people and a nice conversation with them.

We got back onto the mainland at 6:15pm and we decided to aim for the closest caravan park which was only 2 miles away.  It is run by a Texan – I spotted the different accent.  After trying out various different pitches (all of which had considerably slopes) we eventually settled on one that has a sideways slope so this evening only Stephen should roll off his bed.  Chloe is the best off as she has her head above her feet, the rest of us are the other way around (parked this way for the view). We are right on the coast line and can see the Orkney Islands from here.  In fact it is now 11:30pm and I just went to the loo and the sun is still setting in the West.  I don’t think it really gets properly dark here.  The other thing I noticed is that it is getting cloudy in the East again and the wind is blowing from that direction.  I am hoping there is no more rain on the way.

We had bought steak from Orkney (genuine Orkney beef) for dinner and we had also purchased an all-in-one barbecue (just light the paper) so we thought we would give it a try with the steak.  It said that we shouldn’t stand it on a heat resistant surface and while I though the melamine outside table wasn’t good enough, I decided to stand it on a cardboard box and then on the table.  This worked fine for the first 20 minutes or so until I noticed the melamine table turning brown (it was grey) and then decided to lift off the box and barbecue (which was in a foil container) at which point the box decided to light up as well.  The grass became the obvious place to drop the barbecue and Michael kindly pointed out I was going to burn the grass.  At this point Helen offered the grill rack from the oven … if only she had thought of that 20 minutes earlier!  No damage done (ok – very little damage done – just a slightly black outline in the grass and slight brown tinge to the table) and we were back in business.  We could only fit 3 steaks on the grill and so the rest had to be panfried inside the motorhome.  They turned out very well and along with the mixed vegetables and baby potatoes with cheese it was again a nice dinner.  We walked into the town (Thurso) and found an ice cream shop still open and so we had those for desert.

All the campsites are rated here in Scotland and this is the first 3 star one we have stayed at.  The first 2 were 4 and 5 stars.  There isn’t much to rate them on but the key feature is the quality of the bathrooms.  When Helen returned this evening she said ‘Definitely 3 stars’ and after I had used this evening for a shower I think it is more like 2 stars.  We will survice though and the view makes up for it.  As no one went to bed before 10:30pm this evening and Stephen having just gone to bed at 11:30pm, I think we will all sleep in.  I will go to sleep as soon as I have sent this.

Yours from the Island hopping Temples.

Day 9 of UK Trip

The howling wind last night brought the rain as predicted.  And has it rained.  As I sit here now I can still hear the steady fall of rain onto the van.  I can also feeling the rocking from Helen moving around on the bed above me.  It has rained almost the whole day.  Michael asked this evening for how long it had been raining and I said the whole day.  I think was a slight exaggeration, it probably didn’t rain for about 5-10 minutes actually.  It is a pity it rained so much because I have no doubt the views would have been staggering if it had been a clear day.  As it was, the scenery during today’s drive was beautiful despite the rain.

We woke up at around 8am this morning.  Stephen and Helen slept the best it would seem.  Chloe complained that Michael kept rolling on top of her (as the van was at a slight downward angle) and Michael acknowledged that at one stage he kicked Chloe as well.  I had the irritating problem that the cushions on my bed are not joined together and so there is a crack between them and of course I rolled the whole night into the crack.  Unfortunately we got the van parked at the same angle again this evening so it will probably be a repeat performance.  What we need is an automatic levelling mechanism so that when you park the van it adjusts the suspension to ensure you are level.  Maybe I could patent that and retire with my millions.

After we had breakfast, we pulled the plug (literally – the only external connection we have) and headed further north.  The road follows Loch Ness northwards.  We went in to the Loch Ness Exhibition Centre which details the photos, videos and scientific work done to try and find Nessie – the affectionate name given to the Loch Ness monster.  The number of photos makes you really wonder whether there isn’t something behind it.  Even the scientific explorations have been inconclusive but have found strange phenomenon which are still unexplained.  There was also a brief movie to watch about the monster including interviews with some of the people who have supposedly seen it.  Very interesting actually.

We then headed into Inverness which was previously the furthest north Helen and I had been in Scotland.  A quick stop at the shop to get more provisions (only a small fridge) and then on our way northwards again.  We headed up the East coast of Scotland to Wick.  We stopped briefly for lunch at one of the small coastal villages and ate lunch looking over the sea.  We stayed inside the van as it was quite cold as well as rainy.  We did spot 1 lifer there (birds for those of you who haven’t read our previous travelogues).  We have extended our birding habit to the UK and found it quite easy to bird here because there are usually only 1 or 2 of a particular type of bird.  For instance, there is only 1 type of Swallow so when you have identified it as a swallow (which is quite easy) then you know you have seen the only type as there are no other options.  So far we have seen 31 birds in total.  I thought we could get to 100 for the trip but that depends whether the weather improves over the next few days.  It is quite hard to see birds in this weather though we did see 4 lifers today in total.

We continued to head north until we got to John ‘O Groats which many people think is the furthest point north on the UK mainland but it is not actually.  Dunnet’s Head is actually the furthest north.  We didn’t even get out at John ‘O Groats but rather headed to Dunnet where we knew there was a campsite.  On the way we passed Gill’s Bay which is where we can get a ferry to the Orkney Islands.  We booked in for tomorrow for the 9:30am ferry and that is what we will do, weather permitting.  It is only a 15 minute drive back from the camp site at Dunnet to the ferry but we need to be there 45 minutes before departure.

We checked into the campsite at around 4:30pm and then went up to Dunnet’s Head which is about 5 miles away on a single track road.  When we got there only Helen and I got out as it was cold and raining but we were rewarded by seeing a Great Skua (another lifer).  Stephen was slightly annoyed because Helen and I saw about 4 lifers today which he did not see because he was reading his book and not looking out of the window.  We headed back to the camp site and have been there ever since.  We had pork sausages with barbecue sauce, rice, fried mushrooms and cucumber and tomato for supper tonight.  Again a nice meal with limited equipment.  The only problem now is that the whole van smells of pork sausage.  You don’t notice it until you go out of the van.

The fact that you will be reading this report shows you that we still have cellphone reception though it is quite a slow connection.  Not sure about tomorrow though so don’t be surprised if you don’t get to read the travelogue tomorrow.

Good night from the rainsoaked Temples.

Ps. Sorry about the late posting but I could not get connection due to the fact that there was a military procedure happening during which they were testing out a signal blocker. Stephen

Day 8 of UK Trip

Today never went as expected.  I really hope tomorrow doesn’t go the same way.  No, I am not repeating yesterday’s blog.   Stephen said that I was tempting fate by typing that yesterday.  Last night we slept remarkably well and much better than I expected.  There were at least 2 “party” groups staying in the hotel – one bachelor’s party and one hen party – so I was expecting a noisy night.  In addition, because our room faced East, we expected the early morning sun but as the room was so hot we needed to leave the window and blinds open so that we could get a minimal amount of air into the room.  As the sun rises at around 4am, I expected to be woken up early.  However, despite the lumpy bed we all slept well (probably the 5:30am start) and while I woke up a few times in the morning due to the sun pouring into the room, I went straight back to sleep again.  I got up at around 8am and the rest of the family followed at about 8:30am though I had to actually wake the boys up by going into their room (we had an extra key for that purpose).  We went down to breakfast at about 9am and the breakfast turned out to be more extensive than we originally thought and there was no charge for the kids.

We could only pick the motorhome up at 12pm today and we fortunately only needed to check out at 12pm so we decided to kill the time at the hotel.  As our room was about 5 degrees warmer than the boys’ room we decided to rather move everything into their room and everyone settled down to read, play on their computers (4 laptops travelling with us) or in my case do some CBD work (as it might be the last decent internet connection for about a week.)  At about 10am, the fire alarm went off!  I told the kids to grab the important things (everyone went for their laptops!) and we headed down the 4 flights of stairs to the assembly point.  As we went through the reception area we could smell burnt toast and so we figured the alarm went off due to someone burning their toast (and we weren’t far wrong).  Incredibly we were one of the first people out and we were on the 4th floor.  Everyone else was obviously waiting to see if it was a real alarm or not.  I can see how people get trapped in buildings that are on fire if they simply don’t leave when the alarm goes off.  The fire department came and we were let back into the building about 10 minutes later.  It turns out that someone tried to toast a croissant even though it very clearly says above the toaster that croissants must not be put into the toaster.

After the eventful morning we left to collect the motorhome.  When I gave the taxi driver the address he asked whether we were going to stay in a flat.  I said no, collecting a motorhome.  He said, no businesses around there, only flats.  My initial thought was this guy has no idea where this address is and I was going to phone the owner so that he could get instructions but the taxi driver insisted he knew where it was so I left him to it.  He kept muttering about it being flats and no businesses.  We found the address and he was right, it was flats (and council ones as well) but outside the flats were 2 motor homes.  He was very surprised (as were we) but we figured we had the correct place.  William (the owner) was sitting in the one motorhome (the one we were getting).  I suspect the guy is the on dole but running a motorhome rental company on the side.  I cannot believe that in the UK that it would be allowed to run a company renting motorhome from your flat (especially given all the regulations they have).  Anyway, we got the motorhome from him, got our instructions on how everything works, turned on the GPS (or SPG as Brian calls it) and headed for the North.

We were on the motorway for the first 30-40 miles and so we stopped at a ‘Services’ to get lunch.  Helen chose the ‘Roast Ox’ crisps.  This choice followed her ‘Builders Breakfast’ ones previously and I am starting to get concerned that she might start growing a beard or something soon.  Let’s hope it is just her curiosity and the intrigue of trying out new flavours.  Soon afterwards we came off the motorway and started our travels on more minor roads.  The SPG decided that a very minor B road was the fastest way to go (probably because it was shorter and the speed limit was the same but there was no way you could travel at the same speed on that road).  The “A road” ran almost parallel with the B road we were on so it was clearly not a good decision by the SPG.  We have learnt our lesson now and so when it later tried to do the same thing again we ignored it.

Our plan was to try and reach the shores of Loch Ness so that we could (ideally) spot Nessie, get our photo and get rich.  We had to stop for supplies (not for Nessie – for us) and so we stopped at Fort William where Helen remembered there was a good supermarket (from our last trip to Scotland about 10 years ago – Chloe wasn’t around then yet).  Not sure how she remembered that but I guess there is a special part of a woman’s brain that only remembers shops.  We got what we needed for a few days and continued to head north.  We had managed to pick up a Scotland caravan park guide so knew there was a park on the side of the Loch and we hoped they would have space for us.  We found it and it really is on the side of the Loch.  We filled up the water tank and then hitched up the van to the electrical supply.  We then unpacked both the groceries and our suitcases so that we could get rid of the suitcases into the storage space under the mobile home.  Helen then set about making supper which turned out very well given the limited space.  Stir fry sweet & sour chicken was our first meal in the motor home.

We also had to figure out sleeping arrangements.  There is a double bed above the driver’s seat, at the back of the motorhome are 2 single beds (though they are probably 1.5 beds actually) and where the table is, that makes into another 1.5 bed.  Helen felt claustrophobic in the double bed so we have the 2 single beds at the back and after a lengthy negotiation, Chloe and Michael are sleeping at the top and Stephen where the table goes.  We will take some photos and try and upload to the blog when we are able to so that you can see how it all works out.  (PS: Stephen took some photo’s of the evacuation this morning from the hotel but in the downloading process managed to lose them….sorry…they were quite entertaining.)

So we are currently parked about 3 meters from the Loch and I hope that the park brake doesn’t fail or that it doesn’t rain too much tonight.  I am reminded that we ought to find a flat parking in future – I remember that from the Ireland motorhome trip and it took me 1 night to remember it.  I won’t forget again.  It is now 10:50pm and there is still enough light to see the sky which is becoming more cloudy.  Bad weather is meant to be approaching tonight and will be with us until at least Tuesday.  The wind is howling at the moment and the motor home is swaying back and worth.  Regardless of what the weather is like we will enjoy ourselves.  They already has been much laughing and fun and everyone is enjoying it.

Yours from the travelling Temples.

Day 7 of UK Trip

Today never went as expected.  I really hope tomorrow doesn’t go the same way.  It started off ok except that we had to get up at 5:30am this morning to ensure we got to the station in time to catch the train to Edinburgh.  We had decided to take the train up rather than to fly and in fact it was slightly cheaper to take the train.  As we left the apartment a taxi was going past so we didn’t even battle to find a taxi, despite it being 6am.  The train left from King’s Cross.  We got there with sufficient time to get a coffee before boarding. The train left precisely on time and we were due to arrive into Edinburgh at 11:35am.  It is a scenic journey and you only stop a few times at major centres such as Leeds & Newcastle.  The good thing for me was that the train had free Wifi access so I could get some CBD work done on the trip.

The plan was that when we got to Edinburgh we would have some lunch first and then go to pick up the mobile home.  We had been told that pick up time was 3pm but that they would have it ready for us to collect at 2pm.  So we need to kill about 2 hours before taking a taxi to the collect the mobile home.  They had told me that if they had it ready prior to 2pm they would call me on my mobile.  We found a Cafe Nero (or Cafe Nerd as Chloe calls it because the name is sign written in capitals and the O looks like D).  We had a sandwich and drink and were doing quite well in killing the time when my mobile rang at about 1:15pm.  It was the owner’s mobile phone number (I recognised it) and so I was expecting him to say we could come and collect it.  It turns out (after taking awhile to adjust to his broad Scottish accent) that the previous renter had someone damaged the door which was now broken and therefore the van was unsuitable to rent.  He said that they had tried to get a new door but the agents had said it would take 8 weeks to get a new door.  He said they had tried all the other motor home companies and they didn’t have a free van either.  He said they were trying to repair the door but that they had to send one of their staff to Glasgow to get a glass panel and only when he returned would they know whether it would work.  He offered that we either take a B&B for tonight (at his expense) and get the van tomorrow or he would refund us the entire rental.

Really not the type of news you want when you are looking forward to a quiet 7 days driving around Scotland!  My view was that we should wait as long as possible to see if they could get it repaired today still but if they couldn’t we would take a B&B and then pick one up tomorrow.  We settled in to Cafe Nerd and promptly spent another 2 hours there!  4 hours in a coffee shop is quite some feat and Helen and I were really proud of the kids for how patiently they handled it.  I was extremely frustrated, annoyed and bored out of my mind so I can only imagine how they were.  I remember that Rob Smith once remarked in a sermon that you could not learn patience unless your patience is tried – well today we all had our practice.  Eventually at 3:15pm they called to say they definitely couldn’t fix the problem today and that they would pay for us to stay in Travelodge for the night.  They made the booking and told us the address – we eventually left Cafe Nerd and took a taxi to the Travelodge.

When we got to the Travelodge, of course, they had no booking for us at all.  I called the owner, he swore they had gotten one of his staff to make the booking, they denied having one for us and they said all the family rooms were taken.  The owner spoke to the manager of the hotel and that also didn’t resolve the problem and so it went on (in repeat iterations for about 10 minutes).  I eventually said if they had any free rooms I would take them and pay for them myself.  Just at the point the manager found a reservation for ‘Gemple’ in the system and sure enough it was the one made for us (though they had no payment details).  I called the owner and told him I was paying and they had to reimburse me tomorrow am.  He agreed to do that and we took the 2 rooms.

Immediately we got into the rooms I was reminded why I shouldn’t stay at a Travelodge.  No aircon (and it is quite warm), the window can’t open more than about 3 inches (I assume that it is like that in case you can’t take the room anymore and want to jump out), no telephone (if you want something from reception – like bedding for Michael & Chloe – you have to go down to reception and ask), a TV screen the size of my laptop, one bath towel (for three of us – we’ll follow the British tradition and not bath tonight), a badly stained sleeper chair (which Chloe has to sleep on in our room and Stephen is sleeping on in their room), and a host of other things which remind me that for £75 per night (that is R1000 per night) I could get a really nice hotel in South Africa.  Helen was irritated by the continental breakfast costing £7.50 – I hope it’s better than the room.  I think I may just sleep on top of the duvet tonight.  Fortunately I brought my own pillow along with me …

This evening we walked into the centre of Edinburgh and it really is a beautiful city.  Both the boys said they we could move here if we wanted.  We are staying on the west side and it took about 20 minutes to get into the centre (Princes St).  We found a nice family restaurant for dinner and it was a nice meal (even if the day was a little frustrating and wasted).  We walked back again and enjoyed the lovely evening at the sun still out at 8pm.  In fact it is now 10:30pm and it is just getting dark.

Everything that didn’t go as planned doesn’t really matter actually.  What is important is that we got to spend the day together as a family.  We also accept that things like this don’t just happen and that it was purposed by God for a reason.  We don’t know the reason but maybe it was (for example) to protect us from having an accident if we had picked up the mobile home today.  We don’t know but it doesn’t matter – we accept life isn’t perfect and we make the most of what we get.  Today was a day like that and I am going to bed tonight (and now literally!) still content.

Hopefully when I write tomorrow it will be from the bowels of a whale … no that’s not right  … that was Jonah who had to learn that God controls everything … let’s try that again – Hopefully when I write tomorrow it will be from the bowels of the motor home and I will be testing out using my mobile phone to login to the Internet rather than the hotel Wifi!

Good evening 2 y’all

From the “patience learned & practiced” Temples