Fish Out of Water

Musings and observations about life from an East Coast native now living on the Left Coast in the California State Capitol since 2004. This fish has made her home in Madison, WI (7 years); Portland, OR (2 years); Las Vegas, NV (7 months); Middlebury, VT (3 summers); Marne-la-Vallee, a small town east of Paris, France (6 months); Middletown, CT (3 years); and Marshfield, MA, the fish's coastal hometown 40 miles south of Boston (17 years).

Location: Sacramento, California, United States


Scottish Isles & Norwegian Fjords: May 28-30

May 28-29: Boston, Amsterdam, Glasgow, Le Boreal
We had a bit of an adventure when we boarded our flight from Boston to Amsterdam, as the Economy Comfort Plus seats we had purchased were in an Exit Row, and the flight crew didn’t quite like the fact that Mom was traveling with a cane (aka “assist device”). Luckily, we were able to switch with a couple two rows in front of us, so we still got all of the same perks, the most important of which was the extra leg room for the 6+ hour trans-Atlantic flight.

Once we arrived in Amsterdam, we had to wait a bit for our little shuttle ride to our next gate - I’m glad Mom had made advance arrangements for “assistance” on this journey, as we literally went from one gate to the very end of another terminal for our connecting flight to Glasgow! We had equally good luck in Glasgow, as a small corps of folks was waiting with wheelchairs for us to deplane, which also meant we got the fast-track through the rather long line at Customs & Immigration. Sweet!

We met up with our group in the Arrivals Hall and were treated to our first typical Scottish weather experience, when a sudden downpour struck just as we were about to make the short walk from the terminal to our shuttle bus. I also had the opportunity to get two Lion bars at the airport newsstand – yay! The bus took us to The Corinthian, a hotel in downtown Glasgow, where we enjoyed some beverages and sweets in a lovely dining room while waiting for another bus to head to the port:

I took advantage of the time to take a short stroll around some of the central city near the hotel and was struck by the contrast between the historic Victorian buildings and the ongoing modern construction, which was emphasized by the “enhancement” to the statue in front of the Modern Art Gallery:

The trip from downtown to the port took about 40 minutes, and our guide’s rather heavy Spanish accent was a bit difficult to understand at times as she described some of what we were seeing along the way. When we arrived at the port to check in and board our yacht, Le Boreal, of course the rain began again, so the warm towels presented by the staff as we entered were quite welcome.

We received our ship ID cards, had our photos taken, were escorted to our cabin on Deck 3 (the same Deck where we entered), and had just about enough time to unpack before participating in the mandatory life boat drill. Mom then headed off to watch as we sailed away from Glasgow while I did a mini boot camp workout in the cabin. Our next order of business was the “Word of Welcome” in the Theatre on Deck 4 from Captain Erwann Le Rouzic followed by introduction of our guest experts and information about the next day’s schedule.

Mom and I are part of the Smithsonian Journeys group, the largest of the “affiliate” groups on board (others are from alumni associations and other educational organizations), so our first dinner on board was assigned to La Boussole, the restaurant on Deck 6. We ended up being seated with the prof from UC-Bakersfield who is the “expert” for our group, so we had some nice dinner conversation with him and others. There was some sort of live music offered after dinner, but Mom and I both decided that sleep was more important, so off we went for our first overnight on board.

During the evening, from about 1-3am, we had some rather rolling waters that kept me up. Mom slept through it all, and I’m hoping that’s the roughest sea we encounter during the journey! Many thanks to Mom for bringing lots of seasickness treatments and preventives, including some pressure-point wristbands that I had put on earlier in the day, as I’m sure that they helped me to get through the night.

May 30: Oban & Mallaig
I woke up early to sunny skies and a scenic view and headed to the Fitness Center to jump on the treadmill.

The machines face a wall of windows, so the view of the ocean and the landscape as I ran was quite lovely, but I could definitely feel the swell of the waves impacting my workout – up and down and up again! We decided to return to La Boussole for breakfast, as we had so enjoyed the view the evening before. The staff was equally attentive (almost too helpful sometimes…), and I was even able to order two hard-boiled eggs, which arrived at a perfect medium-boiled stage (Mr. E would approve).

We were split into different colour groups for the day to help organize the logistics of getting 218 passengers off-board, onto the smaller tender ships, across to Oban, and onto the appropriate buses, aka “coaches” here in the U.K.

As we boarded the coach, we noticed lots of fabric fishes hanging from the railing along the water:

Our guide told us that they were made by local primary school students as part of a fund-raiser. We also had a great view of our ship at anchor from the Oban pier:

The coach journey was just over 2.5 hours from Oban to Fort William, with a rest stop along the way at The Green Welly, where I made my first purchase of souvenir magnets and a special something for Mr. E.  During the road trip, we passed through some picturesque Scottish Highlands countryside, including several moors, and saw lots and lots of sheep. Our guide mentioned that the population of Scotland includes 5.3 million people… and 4.5 million sheep!

At Fort William, we had lunch at the Hotel Ben Nevis, named after the large mountain nearby, and then got back on the coaches to return to the center of town for a bit of free time (more magnets acquired) before we boarded the Jacobite Steam Train:

This train runs from Fort William to Mallaig, across the Glenfinnan Viaduct, and was made famous as Hogwart’s Express in the Harry Potter movies.

The entire journey took just over 2 hours, including one stop in Glenfinnan, and we disembarked in Mallaig. Along the tracks at the terminal station were some clever planters that maintain the rail theme:

I joined some others from our group for the short walk from the station to the dock, and Mom took advantage of the shuttle bus option. We had to wait a bit for our tender back to Le Boreal, which was anchored offshore, and we then had just enough time to enjoy a bit of coffee, sweets, and yoga (me only for the latter, not Mom) before the Captain’s Welcome Reception in the Theatre.

Mom decided to skip the gathering to rest in the cabin, so I headed off solo and enjoyed the champagne along with some lovely conversation with a couple from the McGill University alumni group. Once the program was over (champagne, passed hors d’oeuvres, piano & singer, Cruise Director’s remarks, Captain’s remarks), I returned to the cabin to fetch Mom for the buffet dinner at La Boussole. We ended up at a table with a couple from the William College group, including the gentleman who is their “expert” and will be presenting a sessions later during the journey, most likely focused on geology.

Eventually, I took the remainder of my wine and went back to the cabin to check on Mom before heading to the lounge on Deck 6 that supposedly has the optimal wi-fi connection so that I could work on my blog and also check email. From the info provided in advance, I hadn’t realized that wi-fi access onboard is only available for a fee, so I ended up opting for the smallest package (100 minutes at 30 euros) as I want to be able to stay in touch with Mr. E and my sister and also keep up with this blog!

The hospitality onboard has been very attentive and courteous, including nightly turn-down service. Mom happened to be in the cabin when the steward was just finishing up, so she got a chance to chat with him a bit, and I very much appreciated the scene he created with my furry traveling companions (cow and Halas) and the little wrapped candy:


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dr. J!

So glad you got off to a good start and the staff seemed friendly and helpful. Sheep o plenty and good conversation. you are braver than I could ever be with the rocking and rolling...



5:32 PM  

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