|March 18, 2003
Mingalar House Hotel, Edinburgh
We left Dundee in the mist this morning at our
usual departure time of around 10. The girls and Nathan seemed genuinely
sad to be saying goodbye to Douglas and Barbara, and Benson the basset,
too, but we’re ready for our Edinburgh trip now. Steve had plenty of room
in his sixteen seat mini-van Mercedes, but he’d taken out some seats in
the back and we piled everything in there. It was funny to see my family
all move into their self assigned seats and in the usual gentle way
associated with sisters and cousins move interlopers out.
On the way to our morning
stop at Gleneagles, Nathan asked me what was the best part for me about
our stay in Dundee. I thought for a moment and found my answer. Of
everything we did and saw, and that includes our climbs up our now famed
in the family lore Conshie Brae, I could think of nothing more wonderful
than being with six members of my family and seeing them have fun
It’s been like Christmas
around the dinner table, or Thanksgiving, or any other special time when
the family makes an effort to be together at the same time – good people,
good food, good fun and a sense of blessing and love. If heaven is like
this, then I want to go there.
Our coffee at Gleneagles
was wonderful – in our family way I had told my family that when I was
young and my mother had taken me on trips to Crieff I’d often seen the
signs leading toward Gleneagles. I’d never been near it – we couldn’t
afford to even look up the drive if we had – and here we were enjoying the
My eldest daughter, Tina,
is a beautiful girl with makeup, hair and nails always impeccable. And
here she is today, wearing what she now also calls her "tea cosy hat" to
hide her beautiful, naturally wavy auburn hair because she "hasn’t seen a
hairdresser in a week" telling us this is the longest she has been without
makeup – I think she’s working on a day – and that there’s no way she’s
going back to America until she gets fixed and that she’s already booked
herself hair and nail appointments at the Heathrow Hilton and wondering
how in the world she’s letting us drag her up to the Gleneagles Hotel in
her condition. And she laughed.
Tina was doing a great job
making fun of herself. On the other hand, to quote Steve, our driver,
Edie, my fifteen year old granddaughter was "back affronted" at the lively
and laughing time we were having in those hallowed halls of the Gleneagles
After being welcomed by a
kilted doorman, we entered the coffee lounge and ordered coffee for the
grownups and hot chocolate for the children and me. Shortbread and butter
biscuits were the accompaniment – however Nathan was more taken with the
refined and demerara sugar cubes than is usual for him with cookies. His
hot chocolate received more than "one lump or two" into his cup from the
sugar bowl that he was enjoying emptying by his increasingly expert use of
the sugar tongs.
There came a
moment, however, when silence did hit our group. We had elected to sit
under a glass case which, during our coffee time, was being shown to some
other patrons as the showplace of a 40 year old whisky which was available
for purchase of £3,000 – yes, three thousand great British pounds sterling
– for the bottle, or £90 a nip. My little used non-math side of my brain
took a moment to figure out that was about $5,000 a bottle or $140 for not
much in a glass before my jaw began to drop.
After the prospective
purchasers left I took a photo of this whisky in the locked case. As I was
taking this picture, attempting to behave as though I saw this kind of
expensive liquor regularly, I had fun listening to my family – the girls
and the children – conversing like connoisseurs (after all, we did have
the Famous Grouse Experience yesterday) about what makes whisky valuable,
when it stops aging, what gives whisky flavor, evaporation and loss in the
casks, etc. If there had been a test, they would have aced it.
After our coffee, and
following Steve’s advice to leave our plastic in our pockets, we wandered
down the corridors to the hotel shops. I certainly didn’t reduce the
inventory of high end jewelry, crystal, clothing or other gifts during my
stroll – although I dearly wish I’d had that ability – but I heard lovely
chiming music and couldn’t quite place what it was. Looking up, I saw a
beautiful crystal chandelier being gently moved by the air flow and could
have listened far longer than time or hallway traffic allowed. Peaceful
Tina’s fiancé is a serious
golfer and she is taking lessons so on the way back to the van, she and
Steve were conversing about long holes, short holes, number of holes,
distance of holes while the only thing I think I know about golf is that
people meet at the 19th hole that’s not a hole – kind of like
the Ferry that’s not at the Ferry, and tea being a meal and not a
beverage. We strolled the grounds only a little because our time was short
and our next stop was Stirling and the Wallace Monument, but I was glad I
was able to see the signs pointing toward the falconry and equestrian
centers for which Gleneagles is also well known.
After a stop at the drive
entrance for a family snap, we were off on our way to Stirling.
I persuaded my family to
forego a tour of the Castle in favour of the Wallace Monument because the
memory of seeing Wallace’s sword hanging on the wall there when I was a
child has remained indelible in my mind all those years. I wanted my
mother’s grandchildren and their children to have that experience of
wonder and awe at the size of that weapon and to think of the life of the
man, Wallace, who hefted it, just as she had given that experience to me.
Our hikes up the Conshie
have turned out to be good training for our climb up Abbey Craig to the
Monument. Amazingly, I succeeded in climbing the steps of the "woodland
trail" and was very relieved to reach the top – by the way, did I note we
passed on the option of taking the National Trust bus up the hill in
favour of the hike? Gluttons for punishment, we are.
I met up with my family in
the first alcove room where some were watching the audio visual
presentation about the Battle of Stirling Bridge and others were in front
of the diorama explaining the life, battles, and martyrdom of Wallace,
followed by a reading of the Declaration of Arbroath. Very low key and
informative and absorbing.
Wallace’s sword no longer
hung on the wall. It’s now enclosed, upright, resting on a Wallace tartan
plaidy in a glass case. Very fitting and very inspiring.
I remember Tina’s remarks
to me when the movie, Braveheart came out, shortly after another movie,
Rob Roy was released. She said she found Rob Roy a good movie, but as for
Braveheart, she said "That was personal." That’s how I feel, too.
My family, hardy souls and
bodies that they are, climbed all the way to the top of the Monument and
enjoyed seeing the exhibit and the view in the other two rooms before
going on to the highest viewing level. I had just wanted to relive my
experience once more of seeing the sword and paying homage to the memory
of the man as I so vividly remembered from my childhood and which might
have been the foundation of my patriotism for Scotland’s freedom and my
sense that we are a free thinking nation of people.
I did see the sword again.
I am happy.
After another hearty pub
meal – steak and onion pie for Steve and me, chicken for Stephanie, bean
burger for Tina and hamburgers for the rest, we drove into Edinburgh and
to our new home away from home, Mingalar House Hotel, a short walk in the
New Town from Princes Street.
My girls decided they were
short on clean laundry, so I stayed "home" with Nathan and Xylia while
they went to the nearby launderette. My grandchildren watched TV for a
while then asked me if I would like a show. Of course I accepted their
invitation, I’m the granma after all, and that’s my job.
I wouldn’t have missed this
display for all the tea in China, as my mother used to say. Entitled "A
Day in a Scottish Farmer’s Life" Nathan dressed himself in his "See you,
Johnny" tam that Steve had given us and Xylia donned a "mob cap" with
long, swinging attached braids that she had bought in Crieff. Apparently,
a Scottish farmer spends his life feeding chickens, killing gophers,
climbing castles and hunting redcoats while his wife prepares supper (of
the killed chicken) and welcomes him home with chicken and haggis after a
hard day at the battlefield.
A second showing was
presented to the launderette ladies when they returned and was also
successfully received. Having had our show, it was time to hunt for
something to eat. So we then trooped up a hilly street in the Broughton
district, not quite Dundee’s Conshie though, and found a restaurant near
the Scott Monument where we had for our suppers a delicious Italian
dinner, with dessert of course, which we must have walked off on the way
home to Mingalar.
And here I am. A tourist
like my family, in the city I love best next to my home of Dundee.
Tomorrow should be a busy
one. Stephanie has a visit to the Castle and Holyrood in mind; I have
those same plans, plus a visit to Greyfriars Bobby’s fountain and pub and
gravesite, preferably coinciding with the firing of the one o’ clock gun;
Tina found the Hard Rock Café, Edinburgh, and told us we’re having dinner
there tomorrow. The rest of the gang will troop behind.
But, for me, it’s about 9
o’clock at night now and time for bed, a book, and perhaps a few dreams
about making new friends via the internet who like these stories, and
hopefully coming back some day with family and friends to show off my
country, my people, my heritage. What better experience could they have or
sight could there be than the one I saw tonight of my children walking in
front of me – a mother and a daughter, a mother and a son, a set of
cousins - all children of mine walking in pairs, holding hands, happily
and freely down Edinburgh’s historic streets.
here to see photos of the day