The Adventures of BJ and Tony Morris

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Scotland, The Southwest
September 2006
"Tony and BJ meet Thomas the Train"

We wanted to go to Oktoberfest in Munich, Germany this year, since we still have never been.  We thought this might be a good weekend for it, but apparently so did a lot of other people; the flights were booked pretty full.  Our second choice was Shannon, but that would have been on an all coach configured aircraft, and for such a short trip, we felt like we needed the comfortable napping position that a business class seat would provide.  Ultimately, we let flight availability decide where we would spend our weekend and it turned out to be Edinburgh.  Tony had just returned from there with his harem, but he was willing to go again with me (Happy to go – TM). 

We made preparations (which included picking up a couple of travel guides from the library and reserving a car) and packed our bags.  A lot of extra thought went into packing our bags due to the new security restrictions.  I replaced my roll-on deodorant with a solid/stick type and removed my toothpaste, shampoo, conditioner and hair gel from my toiletry kit.  Tony took all of the liquids out of his shaving kit except his “contact lens” solutions. 

At the first security checkpoint, they tested Tony's contact solutions, but that was the only item that was scrutinized.  When we got to the gate, there was a line of TSA agents pawing through everyone's carry-on bags.  Watching this process caused me much trepidation about the approach to these security concerns.  It seems that the agents are concentrating so heavily on finding contraband toiletries that they could overlook a real threat. 

We got great seats on the plane and enjoyed a glass of champagne as we settled in.   One of the advantages to a late flight is that it is easier to get to sleep.  In fact, I fell asleep almost before we left the ground and had to be waked up for the meal.  Our flight attendant looked like my friend Gary Spencer and was just about as enthusiastic as I would expect Gary to be as a flight attendant.  As I looked around the cabin, all of the other areas were chowing down on their entrees while we were still waiting for the Gary Look-alike to put down our placemats.  I ordered the beef and Tony ordered the chicken, which was listed as "Celebrity Chef Michelle Bernstein's Original Entree.Michelle gets my vote!   The chicken; braised in red wine with tomatoes, olives and capers; was delicious!  We're still trying to follow the South Beach diet (loosely) so we turned down the ice cream sundae (Not easy to do! – TM).  We watched the first part of the movie (American Dreamz) but both of us fell asleep before the end.  It was a light-hearted amusing flick.  Friday morning, the Gary Look-alike tiptoed around the cabin so as not to wake us as he was serving breakfast. (I don’t remember hearing “breakfasssssssst?” or “juicsssssssse?” this time! – TM) 

After landing, we wandered around the airport to find an ATM.  We each got 200 for the trip.  The Thrifty courtesy car picked us up outside the terminal and took us to the Quality Inn where the Thrifty office was.  The Thrifty agent processed our paperwork and walked us out to our cute little Hyundai Getz. 

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She gave us the “Enjoy Scotland” color coded map with tourist routes marked.  Although we had no real plan, we had decided we’d explore the Southwest, so we set “Jill” and “Emmett” our two GPS’s up with the route (Ya’ gotta’ love the technology.  We set one at “road level” and one at “city level” and had no trouble getting around. – TM).  The weather was positively gorgeous, but we kept noticing some wispy bugs flying around that we later realized were not bugs at all, but thistle.  At first, Tony had a little trouble getting used to the controls in the car and indicated his turns with the windshield wipers (In my defense, SOME right hand drive cars have left side turn signals/right side wipers, and SOME right hand drive cars have left side wipers/right side turn signals.  Fortunately the pedals are “all American” – TM).  

We made a brief stop at a General Store/Post Office to get Tony a Diet Coke.

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We planned to make Galashiels our first stop, but as we drove through, we decided it was a little too big and elected to continue on to Selkirk.  In Selkirk, we found a parking lot just outside the Halliwells House Museum which also happened to be the Tourist Information Agency.  There were some interesting steps at the edge of the parking lot leading up to a cemetery.

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We made a quick tour through the FREE museum.

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Then we asked the lady at Tourist Information about where we could get a bowl of soup for lunch.  She recommended the Jaggy Thistle Coffee House.  Lunch was cream of asparagus soup and a roast beef, sweet onion and horseradish wrap.

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After lunch, we stopped into a pharmacy to pick up the toiletries we had not been able to bring with us.  On our way back to the car, we noticed Sir Walter Scott’s Courtroom, also FREE!  So of course we went in to look around.

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Back in the car, I looked in our guidebook for information on the upcoming cities on our route.  Frommers describes Gretna Green as “quite simply, an embarrassment to native Scots”, so naturally we headed that way.  The book went on to say, “What else can you say about a place that advertises ‘amusing joke weddings’.  The community got its fame from being the closest place to the English border where people could come to take advantage of Scotland’s more lenient marriage laws.  For those of us from Georgia, this would be the equivalent of Walhalla, South Carolina.  At Gretna Green, we found several tourist shops, a couple of restaurants and a blacksmith shop museum where the local blacksmith used to perform weddings. 

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Continuing our Scottish penny-pinching ways, we opted to skip the 3 visit to the museum and wandered around the shops, and trying on tartans before stopping at one of the restaurants for an overpriced glass of wine and cup of coffee. 

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As we were leaving, we saw two wedding parties arriving.

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Our first overnight stop of the trip would be in Dumphries. 

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The Tourist Information place was closed, so we just wandered around looking for a B&B.  There was a neat walking street, but all of the shops were closed. 

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I noticed a bustling pub (The Cavens Arms) and stopped in to ask if they could recommend a B&B or small hotel. 

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They were very helpful and gave us some business cards for several places.  The three places they recommended, Ferintosh (www.ferintosh.net), Hazeldean (www.hazeldeanhouse.com) and Abarglen (7 Victoria Terrace) were all full.  Another B&B had a twin room with a shared bath, but we have (admittedly, she means “Tony has” - TM) made “ensuite” one of our requirements so we kept looking.  There were three small hotels nearby as well as a Best Western.   We selected the quaint looking Birkhill Hotel.   It was rather smoky smelling and cluttered but appeared to be relatively clean and the hostess was very friendly.  At 50 for bed and breakfast, it was within our price tolerance.

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After we settled in, we went down the street to the Waverly Hotel for a glass of wine.  The weather was so nice, we sat outside, but as soon as the sun slipped behind the building it got really cold. 

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We decided to check out the restaurant at the Best Western, but it seemed a bit pricey.  While we were there, we saw a newspaper with a picture of the man from the pub who had helped us find a B&B.  His pub was listed as the best pub in town for 2006.  We decided to go back there for dinner.  It was an excellent choice and worth the wait.  We shared an order of Lamb Curry and a Beef Goulash.  (BJ really wanted to try haggis, a local specialty.  It was on every menu; our hostess at Birkhill Hotel had ordered some from the butcher, to be delivered along with her other meat needs; and the father-mother-daughter famly unit we sat next to ordered and ate some.  But fortunately, BJ never got the nerve to try it.  After we got back, I googled “haggis recipe” and sent her a copy of the results.  Don’t even think of googling it yourself unless you’ve got a very strong stomach – TM)

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Saturday morning we had a lovely Scottish breakfast of scrambled eggs, fried eggs, bacon, sausage, tomato, whole wheat toast and cereal.  We refused the hashbrowns and potato scones since they are not South Beach friendly.

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It was another beautiful day.  We stopped in New Abbey to see Sweetheart Abbey where the Lady of Galloway, Devorgilla is buried along with her husband’s heart which she had embalmed and carried with her from 1269 until 1290 when she died.  We could see everything we wanted to see without paying admission. 

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We also opted to skip the expensive corn mill museum tour.

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Driving through Kirkbean,  we saw the John Paul Jones museum (and didn’t go in. It wasn’t free. - TM), and then on to Southerness. 

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Along the way, we passed a golf course advertising golf with an oval ball.  http://www.solwaygolf.co.uk/golf_cross.asp   At Southerness, we saw one of Scotland’s earliest lighthouses, built in 1749.

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Driving along the coast we stopped for gas in Dalbeattie.  Here we took a gander at Dundrennan Abbey just outside of Kirkudbright and then followed the signs to the wildlife park.  We didn’t go in (again, not free – TM), but noted that it would be a good distraction if we were traveling with children.

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We saw our own bit of wildlife (for free - TM) on the side of the road.  These rabbits were HUGE!

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Newton Stewart was a lovely little town on a river.  We stopped to buy some cheese at the grocery store which we then ate for lunch along with a glass of wine at the Glencairn Hotel.  Afterward, we walked along the river back to our car.

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We chose Stranraer as our evening’s destination and hurried to get there before the Tourist Information Office closed.  The lady behind the desk said that all of the hotels and B&B’s were full because of a lawn bowling tournament and a wedding.  Trusting that our luck was better than that, we decided to see for ourselves and we wandered around town.  We noticed that this town (like almost every other town in Scotland) had a High Street.

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One hotel had a twin room with a shared bath and another B&B had a single room, but the rest of them were full.  The lady at the Harbour Lights Guest House http://www.harbourlightsguesthouse.co.uk/ was so nice, she insisted that we come inside while she called around to find us a room.  She was unsuccessful as well, so we finally decided to drive on towards Ayr.  On our way out of town (about 4 miles out), we found the Rhins of Galloway B&B www.RhinsofGalloway.co.uk with a VACANCY sign outside!  It was a lovely little place.  Our room even had a little fake fireplace to add to the ambiance.  The price was 50 for bed and breakfast.

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We drove back into town and had dinner at The Waterline.  I had the Chicken Tikka Masala and Tony had the Vegetable Nut Roast.  The Vegetable Nut Roast is something I’d like to try to make.  It had roasted peanuts, cous cous, onions, celery, cheddar cheese, carrots and hazelnuts and was drizzled with a white wine sauce.

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While we were there, we met four ladies from Texas who had just gotten to town and were looking for a place to stay.  The bartender was calling around looking for a place for them.   We recommended our B&B but by then the bartender had found them a place.  It was a good thing too, because when we got back to ours, the Rhins had posted a NO VACANCY sign.

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Tonight, weak from our second day in the UK without a beer (South Beach), we enjoyed our (non-South Beach) cookies and brownies (We found them in the room… free – TM) by our fake fireplace before retiring to what turned out to be the most uncomfortable bed of the trip. 

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We have occasionally slept on a hammock-like mattress where we both rolled to the middle, but this was our first time to have the opposite.  This mattress was elevated in the middle and provided no support at the edges, so we both had to hold on to keep from rolling off the sides.  It is too bad too because aside from the bed, the place was just perfect.   The bed is a deal-breaker though.

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The traditional Scottish Breakfast (bacon, tomato, mushrooms, beans, eggs and toast) was served in a beautifully appointed dining room on interesting square china.  We watched the rain drizzle outside as we ate.  This was our first rainy day.

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We continued our drive, stopping in Lanark at the Lanark Loch.  We were going to have a picnic of wine and cheese, but even though the rain had stopped, it was still a bit too chilly for sitting outside. 

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We drove into town where we had our first (and only - TM) beer, a Tennants Lager at the Port Vaults and Vennel pub.

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We decided to spend our last night in Bo’ness so we would be close to the Edinburgh airport for our trip home.  When we got there, we discovered that Thomas the Train had beat us there and brought with him a number of tourists.  

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The girl at the Tourist Information desk thought we might have trouble finding a place to stay.   She was right.  We kept driving further and further away from the airport until we finally found the Antonine Hotel in Falkirk.  By the time we found it, we would have been willing to pay almost anything for a room, so we were very pleased to find that the rate was 55 for bed and breakfast.

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As we wandered around Falkirk looking for a place for dinner, we noticed yet another High Street sign.

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There were several bars and restaurants, but very few of them were serving food on a Sunday night, so we finally settled on the Manor House Chinese restaurant across the street.  We couldn’t really give it a resounding recommendation, but it was hot and filling.

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The bed at the Antonine was VERY comfortable and we were ready for a good night’s sleep after the previous night.

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The Scottish breakfast was served buffet style but was no less enjoyable that our other breakfasts.

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When we got back to the airport, we discovered that the UK has much more restrictive carry-on requirements than the US.  http://www.edinburgh-airport-guide.co.uk/security.html I had to check my roll-a-board since it would not fit in the UK equivalent of the Delta “size-wise” box.  Tony was able to force his backpack into the size-wise

After one last full body search, we took our Business Class seats, and headed home; The DaVinci Code was the movie of choice.

Until next time…

BJ Morris
bj@bjandtony.com

 www.bjandtony.com
bjandtony@bjandtony.com