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Hairpin Turns and Suicide Sheep: On Driving in Scotland!

      I went driving yesterday and today on the isle of Mull and then down to Kilmartin Glen. . . and the good news is I survived! I have to say that it’s interesting driving here in Scotland — and driving on the wrong/left-hand side of the road is the least of it….

    First — there’s the distance thing. Everytime I asked how long it would take for me to get from one place to another, I was told 30 minutes. Craignure to Tobermory? 30 minutes. Tobermory to Dervaig? 30 minutes. Oban to Kilmartin? 30 minutes. Obviously, we must use different measurements of time and distance in the US than here in the UK….30 minutes my arse!  

    The only way that can happen is if you’re not driving, but are flying your car overhead – as the crow flies because these roads are like your intestines — a short distance if you measure on the outside, but 30 feet if you stretch them out and measure from end to end. (sorry — it seemed the perfect explanation!)  

FYI – Oban to Kilmartin? closer to an hour of break-neck turns and hills and wind and rain!

And these mean what....???!

And these mean what....???!

When you see signs like these — it’s your first warning that: a)the road is narrowing, and b) it’s curving, too! But it’s still all good because at this point, there will still be two lanes – one for each direction of traffic. They may be small and curve wildly up or down the mountainside, but there are TWO of them.

 

 

And take a look at the two photos below — the one on the left (I hope) shows the width of my car and the width of the road – a single track road. Not a whole-lot-a extra road space there, huh? The second one shows a little place calling a PASSING Place – can you imagine two cars or a bus or truck edging over to their side and and easing past each other — uh, yeah. It’s how it all works and the very reason why I will need more help from my colorist when I get home to cover all my new gray hairs from the experience!

 

Look at the width of my car -- then the road? Which is bigger?

Look at the width of my car -- then the road? Which is bigger?

 

                                   A Passing Place!

                         

Next driving challenge :

Red AND Yellow? Huh?So, if GREEN means go, and YELLOW means slow down and RED mean stop, what the heck do red AND yellow mean at the same time? This light (sorry for the wiper blade in the middle of the photo) is at a construction site on a single-track road on the way to Kilmartin. Apparently, in the UK, they use this signal to alert drivers that light will be changing to green next… Do you know what would happen in the US if they told us the green light was coming soon? LOL – I know, but here it seems to work.

The Back End of a Suicide Sheep!

The Back End of a Suicide Sheep!

 

Yes, this sheep decided not to die today and instead, wisely, meandered back off the road before I hit it with my cute little blue rental car! Out on Mull (and in many other places where they have single-track roads), sheep are free to range and graze, walking out on the road by themselves or in groups.  They then stand and wait for a foreign driver to come over a hill and remain still – forcing said foreign driver to come to a screeching halt. I suspect that these suicide sheep know many curse words in many different languages. I also suspected them to be like cats, but cats would continue to stare you down and never move first. Sheep finally look at you and then walk away. Fun….

Well, I think I’m getting accustomed to these Scottish driving practices, but I have many miles ahead yet to drive. I’m sure there are still some surprises out there for me!

Check back in tomorrow — I’ll be attending a MacRae Clan Gathering at Eilean Donan Castle! Surely I’ll spot my first Scottish-man-in-a-kilt there? If not, there’s the MacLeod Clan Gathering at Dunvegan Castle on Skye Saturday night.

Terri


MEN IN KILTS!! Finally!!

Oh, thank goodness!! I was getting depressed — almost a week here in Scotland and nary a man in a kilt to be seen….or appreciated…but last night at Eilean Donan Castle, these two greeted me at the door on my way to the Clan MacRae gathering —

Ossian and Alex at Eilean Donan Castle

Ossian and Alex at Eilean Donan Castle

 

    I’d met Alex before — on my first trip to Scotland I toured the Highlands with Sue-ellen Welfonder and Lisa Trimbauer — Alex gave us a tour of Eilean Donan and drew us a wonderful map of medieval sites on Skye.  But this is the first I’d met Ossian — so I got a photo with him. And, gentleman that he is, he let me hold his very big sword:

Ossian's Sword - Oh My!

Ossian's Sword - Oh My!

Oh, c’mon!! You knew I had to say that sometime in this trip?! LOL!

     The rest of the event was fabulous — first the ‘youngsters’ performed for us, singing songs in Gaelic and playing everything from bodhran to harp to guitars to accordions to fiddles. Then the ‘masters’ took over, with a narrator telling the story of the Clan MacRae and singers and musicians joining in with songs written by or about the MacRaes of Kintail. Being in Eilean Donan simply made it more special.

     Tonight, after driving to Skye, I went to another gathering — this time the Clan MacLeod at Dunvegan Castle.  This time, the piper played the big-sized bagpipes, a thrill he said because of his family background.  I learned that the MacKinnons were the hereditary pipers for the Clan MacLeod, and this piper, Calum MacKinnon, is the latest in a line of pipers in his family. He told us that his father even texted him about the significance of him performing at Dunvegan! And the sound was almost too large for the room where we were.

     It was pretty special — listening to him play and sitting right next to the Fairy Flag of the MacLeod’s….

     The drive back to Uig where I’m staying was another interesting driving challenge — rains and winds and curving unlit roads….oh my!  But I was still humming some of the music I’d heard all the way back…..

Terri

PS – Getting excited about my trip over to Lewis and Harris in the outer Hebrides on Monday. . . Leaving on a 5:30 AM ferry is not exciting though….


Did You Know It Rains in Scotland?

Well, I made it through the first day — the flight was good, my rental car is cute (a bright-blue Nissan Note??), and the driving is….interesting! I left Glasgow around 9 and arrived in Oban at noon. I had to stop several times to take pictures of the dramatic scenery along the way…and for a cup of very strong tea to keep me awake!

Here’s one of the first castles I saw on my drive :  

Kilchurn Castle on Loch Awe

Kilchurn Castle on Loch Awe

It is just so cool — you drive around a bend and there it is! So many places like that in Scotland — little surprises along the road.
    I’m staying at the Barriemore Guesthouse (and moving to the Glenburnie Guesthouse tomorrow – long, stupid story for another time!) and just around the bend in the road  from it is this:
Ruins of Dunollie Castle

Ruins of Dunollie Castle

    This castle, along with nearby Dunstaffnege, belonged to the MacDougall clan and the current clan chief (and former MAID OF LORNE) live in a much more modern house on the grounds of the ruins. I knew it was nearby, but had no idea until I went exploring around the bend that it was so close.
     After going to bed, aka collapsing into unconsciousness, at 7pm Scotlandtime last night, I slept well until about 4am here. I had a lovely breakfast and then headed into downtown Oban to catch the ferry to Mull and a bus and another ferry to Iona – the site of St. Columba’s monastery and the center of Celtic Christianity for centuries. The weather doesn’t want to cooperate — storm clouds rumbled overhead and rain threatened at every moment. It pelted us as we left the bus and ran for the ferry from Fionnphort. But soon, the abbey came into sight and the rain was forgotten!
Abbey on Iona

Abbey on Iona

I took the informative guided tour through the abbey, the cloisters, the smaller temporary chapel built and used while the larger one was being built, the St. Oran’s church (from the 1200’s) and the Cemetery where dozens of ancient Scottish, Irish and even some Pictish kings are buried.  And I tried with all my self-control not to go into the Iona Bookstore….sigh….some things are just impossible to resist!

     Then, just as the time drew near to leave — the sun burst through the clouds making the trip back to Mull spectacular! The heather is in bloom and the sunlight lit up the purple mountainsides as we passed. And, though it showered again in Craignure while we waited for the ferry — we were gifted by a fabulous rainbow that seemed to touch the water in Craignure Bay —
Rainbow in Craignure Bay

Rainbow in Craignure Bay

Everyone ooh’d and aah’d and took photos as the ferry seemed to pass right under the archway of light on its approach. It was a wonderful ending to a wonderful day!
    So, early-ish to bed after a lovely dinner at a downtown restaurant and after catching up on hundreds of emails _ I couldn’t get online last night so I’m behind. Tomorrow? I’m going back to Mull to see Duart Castle and Tobermory and some standing stones, stone circles and cairns near Dervaig. Yeppers, driving onto the ferry boat…and off again! My next driving in Scotland challenge. . . one of many in the coming days. . .
    Keep checking back — Kilmartin Glen is in my plans before I leave for Dornie and Eilean Donan Castle on Friday. I’m going to a MacRae Clan gathering at the castle and cannot wait…. Hopefully, the elusive men-in-kilts will be seen there! Surely they will ?!?
     Terri
   

“On the Bonny Bonny Banks. . . .

 Highlands  of Loch Lomond!”

Oh yes — tomorrow I head to Scotland for just over three weeks of research, sightseeing and inspiration. I’ll be traveling mostly in the Highlands and to the Islands including the Hebrides and the Orkneys.

I plan to blog HERE (!) throughout my trip as well as on the AccessRomance blog, the Brava Authors blog and the Jaunty Quills, too. I’ll be taking lots of photos and hope to upload them on my MySpace page…

   So, please stop back…check out my blogs and photos… and sing along with me… “Oh, you take the high road and I’ll take the low road. . . .”

Terri


RWA in DC!

terri-with-harlequin-sign-2009I had a great time at the RWA (Romance Writers of America)’s annual Conference last week in Washington DC. The weather cooperated–the usual mid-July heat and humidity was replaced by mid-80 degree days that were comfortable for walking about and eating at lovely sidewalk cafes. 

I had the chance to sign at the Literacy Signing on Wednesday (which raised more than $60,000 in two hours!) and at the Harlequin signing for conference attendees.  I got to meet readers and talk writing and to see old friends and to make a few new ones.

And, I really enjoyed being an RWA RITA finalist for Best Romance Novella. It’s like being a princess at the ball for a week. Meeting Stephanie Laurens, who won the RITA in my category, was a big thrill for me, too. My inner romance reader was screaming in delight!

So, now I’m home and trying to do a little R&R before hunkering down on a new writing deadline…But, gosh, it was fun in DC!

Terri


Judging a Book by its Cover?

     I had the pleasure of meeting a cover model last Thursday evening when he visited the local Borders romance readers’ group I belong to…he was there to talk about the whole business and experience of being on the cover of romance novels.  Robert John Nuzzie is originally from South Amboy NJ and now not only models, but also acts in films and does commercials, too.

   As an author, it was interesting to finally talk to someone who ultimately represents an author’s book to readers, and who represents the author’s HERO to those readers. Sometimes, as readers and authors know, the person on the cover doesn’t even resemble the character as described in the story.  Sometimes, the cover gods rain down blessings and it’s a stunning visual of exactly what the author intended.

     Robert has posed on several Harlequin covers – and we were amazed at all the different appearance in all the poses and photos we saw…and all of them were very, very nice  😉   Check out his website if you don’t believe me —  www.robertjohnnuzzie.com

     The interesting thing to me as an author was all the questions he had for me. It’s amazing that there is so little interaction between all the people involved in bringing a book to ‘the shelves’ — and how little we each know about the process that the others carry out for our books. Authors and translators know even less about each other — and they are the ones choosing the right words! How much more important could that be in putting my words into another/other languages? Actually, in some other countries, the translator gets top billing inside the book on the copyright page…before the author.

    So, on last Thursday, I spent a couple of hours learning more about the whole process of making covers. . . and it didn’t hurt that I spent them with a very nice man. . . and a bunch of romance readers. . . in public. . . in a store!

 

Terri (who is still learning this whole business even after 10 years…)


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