After getting up this morning I hoped to have a shower using the shower located in my room. My “room”, by the way more closely resembled a closet in that it was small, about eight by eight feet, cluttered, a bed (VERY small, are all Europeans 5 feet in height?), a sink, a chest of drawers, a shower stall, a “closet” (VERY small, see a pattern?), and a stool, hot, with no air conditioning (which I know that I should NOT expect) and circulation, but perhaps, here is where the similarity ends, it was not dark. After following the owners directions to pull the cord dangling from the ceiling in the shower stall and standing there for about five minutes waiting for the water to start I decided that this was not going to work so I pulled on some clothes and proceeded to the washroom (in our terminology) on the floor and used the shower there. It was very good to have a shower and clean up after not having done so for the past day and a half due to the flight. Not having a shower in the morning always makes me feel as though I am dirty and does not improve my early morning temper.

Breakfast was quite good, I know I am to expect it, but a little on the greasy side, with the only fruit or vegetable coming from the grapefruit juice on the side. A little odd with two different meats, well, three if you count the eggs. I did entirely enjoy the bacon which is of the pea meal variety that I remember back in Ontario from my youth, or “Canadian Back-Bacon” as it is known, though, minus the corn meal but good nonetheless.

After having read the guidebook that so thoroughly got me lost looking for a bed and breakfast the night before I decided to once again trust it's wisdom and try a recommended tour of Loch Ness and Inverness. Who would have thought that it would be so difficult to find a parking spot downtown in a city of 63,000 people? It is not easy when you do not have a map but eventually, by luck most likely, have having explored most of the southern half of the city, I came across the bus station which the also had, laughingly called, “Downtown Parking” where I could park for longer than the 60 minutes I had seen elsewhere. I say laughingly because it took me about five minutes to walk, at a brisk pace, to downtown again. By this time the tourist office was open (did I mention that the first time I tried it wasn't?) and I immediately inquired about the tour I knew from my book that was second to none. Sold out, of course, so I tried my runner up, after having looked at all of the posters and liking what I saw about a few, this too was sold out. A little while later I realized that the only tour I could find for half a day (after all, I did not know that I wanted to spend the whole day on a tour) was one of those “tourist traps” that the guide book pointed out as being something to avoid.

Perhaps we in North America have a different definition of “tourist trap”, the specific examples I think of are places like Niagara Falls where you can buy thirty cent trinkets for thirty dollars and regret it the moment you take a good look at it when you get it home. In North America, tourist traps are easy to spot, just look for cheesy advertising and a lot of smiling people willing to take you money and leave you holding an empty wallet, still smiling, of course. Here, well, what can I say, I thoroughly enjoyed the tour with the one notable cheesy aspect, that being our stop at the “Loch Ness Monster Center” (or some such thing) which was interesting in that, again, unlike North America, this was actually a scientific and interesting 45 minutes, describing the various technology they have used to peer into the murky depths of the Loch. This tour also included a bit of a boat ride which was interesting to see the coffee-colour of the water (the tour guides words, not mine) because of the peat. It was also weird to think that you were about 600 feet above the bottom of the Loch at some parts. One interesting titbit I did pick up was that the Loch contains more water than all of the other water in Britain, Scotland and Ireland combined. That is something else considering the Loch is 23 miles long and 1 mile wide in some areas. That is a lot of water. Though, I understand there is a drought in southern Britain right now, I wonder if I should stock up on water before I get there?

After my tour, I did a bit of shopping downtown Inverness, it is interesting how some things are so different yet the same, local electronics shop, bargain shop, clothing, newspaper stand, etc., etc. The same as any other city, odd to think that I am so far from home. But not frightening to me, just interesting.

On my trip back to the car (I TOLD you that it was a ways away) I stopped at the “largest second-hand bookstore in Scotland”, if this was the largest, then Scotland is a lot smaller than I thought. An interesting location in that they had a large selection of “maps” and other hand-painted pictures pulled out of old books and mounted in picture matting. All pieces were guaranteed to be at least 100 years old. That does not mean a lot here, obviously. Old is something at least 1000 years old. You can tell by looking around, all of the houses are VERY old, newer areas are few and far between. Even the row housing is SO old and DIRTY, black soot or whatever graces all that is old, but perhaps that adds to the charm.

After that I foolishly decided to go to Aberdeen, which, it was indicated, was about an hour and a half trip via the scenic route. I am barely getting use to driving and I have already had a few close calls at roundabouts which I am now only beginning to understand, it is an interesting way to avoid putting in traffic lights, makes me wonder why we do not see them in North America, but perhaps I do see it…Here, while it is true that they all drive like they are possessed, they are CAREFULLY possessed, no close calls, no honking of horns, just quick, accurate driving on the smallest roads I have ever seen, while in North America, people travel a bit slower and do not seem to have ever grasped the more intricate aspects of driving such as the use of a brake pedal. The cars are MUCH smaller and fascinate me as they are so different. I am driving a Ford Fiesta but it is VERY different from the car of the same name in Canada. A lot of foreign cars here, you get mostly cars like Peugeot, Ford, with the occasional Mercedes, Volvo or other more exotic cars. But even these “larger” more luxurious cars are small by our standards. Take the Volvos I see, in Canada a Volvo is a monster of a car, a luxury car and not afraid to show it in size, here it is a small car (ok, a bit bigger than my Fiesta, but not that much) comparable to a Volkswagen Fox in North America (smaller though, of course). It is also very odd to see Citroen cars so in use here. We hear NOTHING about them in Canada but here they are all over the place and with new, as in this year, models being used. I thought the company had died some time ago.

Well, as I was saying, I decided to make a go of Aberdeen, once I got there I thought that I would just look for a “B & B” sign, of which I had seen many while travelling on the highway there. This was a bad idea, as I tore with the madmen drivers through the city, there was no such sign to been seen, I was kind of afraid to get off of the main route for fear of getting lost (no small fear, let me tell you) so perhaps it is my fault. That is one thing that really gets me upset. I have a noticeable lack of maps for any of the cities that I am travelling through, so knowing that a restaurant is at 123 Front Street does not help when Front Street is a complete mystery to me and no where to be obviously found.

Anyway, after I left the city, much to my surprise, I was proceeding along a farmer's road along the ocean. It was quite surprising and yet nice at the same time. Quite startling. I quickly was on a “dual carriageway” (a four lane divided highway) going at 70 mph again though. I got sick of this pretty quickly and avowed to turn off and stop at the first hotel off the highway, which happens to be this one. You heard it here first: I swear that on this trip I will NEVER, EVER stop at a hotel again. B & B are SO much in terms of atmosphere, price and people. The hotel is Spartan by North American standards (remember, you are listening to someone that KNOWS what a hotel is after having lived in one for so long) and not really worth the EXTRAORDINARY amount of money they charged me. Thank goodness they through in a free breakfast. It is also bad in that, after having paid that money, there is no air conditioning, no remote for the TV, same small beds, etc., etc. To top it all off they have put me outside the kitchen so the smells coming in through the windows harken to the menu of grease and the like inside (they have a bar too). I will have to find a place before I leave tomorrow and stay there.

An interesting note is that while I was looking for a place in Aberdeen I was quite surprised, and upset, to find that Aberdeen was not listed in the index of my tour book. Undaunted, I looked up Stonehaven, where I am staying now, and, low and behold, I found Aberdeen in big, bold letters on the page before. Perhaps I should drop them a note about the accuracy of their index…

Tomorrow, I will, perhaps, make it to Edinburgh, my mother wants me to go to the Highland Festival, perhaps I will stay there. Though, this is pretty much up in the air now. It is interesting to be able to stop wherever you want, today it was as much of a choice as “I need to stop and get off of this road of maniacs” so no real choice was involved.

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