|The Ring of Brodgar, Orkney Islands|
My husband and I recently took our four children on a family vacation to Scotland. My goal was to see the Ring of Brodgar, a neolithic rock henge in the Orkney Islands and one of the most well-preserved prehistoric monuments on the British Isles. (See my previous blog post “The Earth: Power Points and Ley Lines.” These standing stones are located on a ley line.) My husband’s (Kevin's) goal was to visit the church where his great-grandparents were married, and to not hear how much this was costing him. The goal of each of my children varied. Ben (17) hoped to drink lots of beer in local pubs, which is allowed as long as he’s also eating. Katy (almost 16), our budding photographer, anticipated endless opportunities to add to her portfolio. Hannah (13) packed 3 sweatshirts with the goal of purchasing more, aided and abetted by my faulty memory, hindered further by jet lag. Upon our return home I found a total of seven in her suitcase. Sam (19) tried not to mope in misery at being away from his girlfriend. He succeeded half of the time. Our solution was to urge him to drink beer.
We began in Edinburgh, exhausted from an overnight flight and our inability to check into our hotel rooms. This would be a recurring problem throughout the trip—my propensity for booking early morning flights that left us without lodging until the afternoon when the rooms were ready. Already my family was loving me. Not. So a little swearing ensued, mostly from me. I will admit up front that my Irish temper (maiden name Kearney) gets the best of me at times and my children have learned most of their swearing from me. Never mind that my husband works in the steel industry and the kids have often eavesdropped on phone conversations he has with customers. I’m not pointing fingers.
We have a nice time exploring Edinburgh Castle. Scotland is so different, with old buildings, overcast skies, and funky accents. Smashing! We visit Rosslyn Chapel, just outside Edinburgh, made famous by the book and movie “The Da Vinci Code.” It’s worth a look. In fact, if you check out Hannah’s Instagram account you can see illegal photos she took with her phone while inside. The building is very different than portrayed in the movie and as opposed to the hypothesis that Mary Magdalene was buried within, one theory suggests it was built as a reliquary to house the skull of St. Matthew, apostle of Jesus and gospel writer. That said, you’ll never see the inside of a chapel that looks like this one. The barrel-vaulted roof is covered with stars in relief, the faces of the Green Man (an important character from British folklore) peep at you from all sides, large pillars are wrapped in spiraling vines, everywhere are strange masks, dancers, musicians, and characters from the Old Testament.
|Hannah on the train to Inverness
Photo by Katy McCaffrey
|My husband at
St. Joseph's Church in Blantyre
We finish the Scotland portion of our trip in Glasgow, taking a very touristy bus ride around the city. We return to the University of Glasgow twice because Hannah really needs another sweatshirt. In the suburb of Blantyre we find the church where my husband’s great-grandparents, Robert Gaitens and Jeanie Dobbin, were married in 1897. Well, kinda. This church was built in 1908 so the original is no longer standing. Close enough. The purpose for my husband visiting Scotland is complete. We take the kids to Stirling Castle, north of Glasgow, perched on a high volcanic crag. With unimpeded views in all directions of the countryside, it’s no wonder this was the seat of Scottish kings and queens for centuries.
|Urquhart Castle on Loch Ness|
On our last evening we dine together at the hotel restaurant. It’s not often we’re together as a family. It’s one of the reasons I planned this trip, why I spent my husband’s hard-earned money, why I endured teenage griping about everything from the weather to why we had to visit yet another old church. As my children have grown, one of the best aspects is getting to know them, to hear their viewpoints, to watch their intellect blossom. When they were toddlers family conversations often turned to poop and farting. It’s rather comforting to know that as teenagers their repertoire still encompasses poop and farting, only now there’s a nice dose of cussing in the mix. As the conversation becomes littered with colorful language my husband decides he’s had enough. He sends everyone to their rooms—boy and girl, boy and girl. I can’t stop laughing. I’m tired of living out of a suitcase and eating hotel food, I’m glad I don’t have to flush another Scottish toilet (seriously, I could never get them to work), I’m glad I can stop waiting and waiting for the check at the end of a meal (a waiter feels it’s rude to bring the bill, you must ASK for it), I’m glad to know that lemonade is code for 7-Up (can’t they just call it 7-Up?), and I’m glad that soon I’ll be able to find a nice glass of ice tea (nonexistent here). Still, I’m sorry to see the trip end, swearing and all. It’s the stuff of memories.