Monday, June 5, 2017

Lessons in Scottish History and an Eventful Final Night

Continued from...
Part 1 -
Part 2 -
Part 3 -
Part 4 -
Part 5 -
Part 6 -
Part 7 -
Part 8 -
Part 9 -

On the last morning of my tour of the Highlands and Islands of Scotland, I found myself having a lovely breakfast with my American friend before we parted ways. She was leaving with the rest of the group that were headed to the Orkney Islands later that day while the rest of us, me included, headed back to the cities.  As we said goodbye and wished one another well, it never occurred to me to ask for her contact information or Facebook info until later.  I guess some people are meant to enter your life for a short time and be gone again, leaving only memories.   

Later that morning, the rest of us headed to the Battlefield of Culloden. The drive there was quite long but we had the opportunity to witness some more of Scotland's fabulous scenery. Along a long, desolate country road, we stopped to take in some of the most spectacular scenery I've seen on the entire trip and we even got to see some deer and pheasants.

We arrived at the Battlefield of Culloden in the early afternoon and started our tour with a walk-through of the indoor museum and exhibit.  I didn't know all that much about the famed and brutal battle but after I did that walk-through, I knew everything there was to know including just how devastatingly brutal the battle was.  I was particularly disturbed by the 3D movie that was shown on all four walls of a fairly large room at the end of the exhibit.  It was a very realistic reenactment of the battle.  Standing in the middle of that room with scenes of the recreated battle happening all aroud me made it seem like I was right there in the middle of it all. After brushing up on my knowledge of one of Scotland's most famed battles, I stepped outside onto the actual battlefield where, On April 16th, 1746 around 2000 men lost their lives in a relatively short amount of time.

There were quite a few people wandering the battlefield that day but despite the crowds, it seemed eerily quiet.  The kind of quiet that caused goosebumps to form on my arms and the hair to stand up on the back of my neck.  Against a gentle breeze, I slowly walked along around that vast stretch of land where so many lost their lives.   A hand-held device and headphones with dialogue about the battle was handed out to everyone before they began their walkabout of the battlefield.  I took one with me but didn't use it.  I separated from the group and walked the battlefield alone, at my own pace and without the noise pollution of a robotic-sounding guide in my ears.  I felt this was the best way to get a feel of the place and to envision what transpired in that exact spot almost 300 years earlier.  As I walked, the realization hit me that the Battle of Culloden is not only a part of Scotland's history, but also a part of my history.

Before heading to our final destination, we made one more stop at the location where The Battle of Bannockburn took place in 1314. We got a brief history of the battle, the battlefield, the huge statue of Robert the Bruce and a lesson in the historical inaccuracies portrayed in the movie Braveheart. 

It took about an hour to drive back to Glasgow.  I requested to be dropped off there so I wouldn't have to travel from Edinburgh to catch my plane the next morning.  After saying goodbye to Andrew and the rest of the group, I exited the bus into one of the cities busy squares where students and workers on lunch break hang out and tried to find a bus to take me to my hotel near the airport.  I figured it would be easy to get there from downtown Glasgow considering how easy it was to travel from the airport to downtown when I had first arrived in Scotland.  Alas, that was not to be. It took me over an hour to find the right bus stop and than to find the right bus.  And that was just the start of my travel woes that evening.

I booked a room at the Ramada Glasgow a few weeks in advance of my trip and was in contact with staff several times before I boarded my flight to ask general questions about directions and the like.  I confirmed my booking before arrival and even received an email from the hotel with the name "Ramada Glasgow" in the email and I was told the hotel was only a few minute's walk from the airport.  That evening, I got off the bus near the front of the airport and went inside to ask the help desk for directions to the hotel.  I was provided with a map and some vague directions before going off into the night.  I followed the directions and watched for the landmarks marked on the map and followed it exactly to the spot where the hotel should be...and it wasn't there.  I walked around some more thinking I took a wrong turn.  How hard could it be to find a hotel in such a small area, right?  I walked and walked and walked until I was exhausted and frustrated beyond belief.  It started to rain.  It started to downpour.  I got wet.  I was starving.  All I wanted to do was check in to my hotel and and rest up for the long journey home the next day.  I started walking in the other direction.  I turned down another road and another and I tried to find someone to ask for directions but no one was around.  I started to get a little scared as it was getting darker and I was alone in the rain in an area where there weren't a lot of people in a foreign country where I didn't know anyone.  Finally, I spotted a service station in the distance.  I walked towards it.  

When I finally arrived at that service station, the young man at the counter had no idea what I was talking about.  He did, however, tell me to check with the delivery driver who was pumping gas because he would probably know the area best.  I don't normally approach strangers in this manner while traveling but I was desperate and willing to do anything just to get in a warm, cozy, dry bed ASAP.  I asked him if he knew where the Ramada Glasgow was and he did!  I also normally don't take drives from strangers while traveling but my desperation caused me to have a lapsed in better judgement.  Fortunately, he took me straight to the hotel, or at least to where the hotel used to be.  We stopped in front of a Courtyard Marriott and he swore up and down that this had been the Ramada Glasgow not long ago.  He was so sure of it, he told me to wait in the car while he went inside to ask someone where it was.  This is when I discovered that the Ramada Glasgow had changed its name to the Courtyard Marriott. Once I knew for sure I was in the right place, I thanked my driver profusely and entered the hotel lobby ready to rip a piece of someone but I was too tired to fight it.  I checked in and was finally headed to my room in preparation to unwind for the evening.  Except, that is not exactly the way things went.  

I thought that not being able to open my room door with my key card and not being able to get the lights working in the room would be the only minor things I would experience that evening.  Boy was I wrong.  My first mistake was realizing I was hungry and going downstairs in search of something to eat.  I didn't feel like having an entire large meal so I went in search of the convenience store that was listed as one of the amenities of the hotel.  When I was unable to locate it, the lady at the front desk informed me that all that was left in the store that evening was in the room behind her - a bunch of empty shelves.  My stay at the Ramada Glasgow - or should I say the Courtyard Marriott - wasn't off to a good start and it didn't end there.  After I had to shell out more money than I wanted to order a meal from the hotel bar and restaurant, I sat down to enjoy what should have been a peaceful meal after the hellish evening I'd experienced.  That peace was shattered before my fork even made it to my mouth by the sound of a fire alarm going off and staff running around in a panic seemingly not knowing what to do.  While some staff members ran around like chickens with their heads cut off, I approached the front desk to ask the scared-looking receptionist what was going on.  All she told me was she didn't know, it was being looked into and the alarm had been going off like that all day.  Lovely.  So much for a good night's sleep.  Fortunately, the alarm only went off one more time and I was able to sleep soundly until my alarm went off at 5am. 

No comments:


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...