Friday, March 24, 2017

The Tour of Unfortunate Events

Well, we're back.

And we had a blast!

Sarge's ancestral home is beautiful, full of history, friendly people and magical elixers.

However, as with most things in life, in order to truly enjoy the good things, you must endure some hardships.  All the planning in the world can't prevent a setback or two.  Little Juvat was Chief of Plans for this trip, he was assisted by Mrs Juvat as the Billeting and Transportation Officer.  Our merry band of troops consisted of myself and Mrs Juvat, My Beautiful Daughter (MBD), Little Juvat and his lovely bride, our Winemaker friends Gary and Kathy, and three of Little Juvat's co-workers.

As the Transportation Officer, Mrs Juvat set about making reservations for the trip from London to Edinburgh.  For whatever reason, when the initial plan was dispersed, the first name on the list was for "Clarence".  Now, not ever having met the man,she assumed that she was provided with the correct information, and so made reservations on the Virgin East Coast train from London Kings Cross to Edinburgh Wimberly stations for all of us including "Clarence".

For some reason, travel authorities these days want the name on the reservation to match the name on the passport.  We actually met Clarence in London,  where I walked up and introduced my self.

"Hi, Clarence, I'm Juvat!"

An extremely puzzled look came over his face.  Unfortunately, Clarence's real name is Thomas.

Apologies were extended, and a quick stop at the Virgin East Coast's website got the reservations straightened out, that night at dinner (Fish and Chips and Guinness) we held an impromptu Tour Tactical Call Sign Committee meeting and "Clarence" was bestowed.  A round of Guinness purchased by the newly renamed member of the Tour Company sealed the deal.

Behold, Clarence Thomas.

Great guy with a huge sense of humor, he and MBD hit it off and were tour buddies.

Unfortunately, when we got off the airplane at Heathrow, cleared immigration and went to baggage claim, my bag was circling the rack, but my DIL and beloved wife's were AWOL.  Went to the lost luggage area and entered the queue (normally I would have said Line, but this is England!).  When we got to the the head of the queue, the gentleman asked where we'd traveled from.  We told him Austin and he mentioned that all the people ahead of us also embarked there.

Our theory was the bags were loaded on the last trolley in the train and someone forgot to latch that one to the next to last.  Took off for the jet and left it at the station.

"No Worries, it'll be on the next flight."

"When will that be?"

"Tomorrow, same time"

"We'll be on the train to Edinburgh"


Three days later, the ladies were reunited with their luggage.

A joyful reunion it was.

So...We're in Edinburgh (pronounced Ed'in Burrr a) and head out for dinner.  It's fairly late, Edinburgh time, but not for us.  The only restaurant we can find within a comfortable walking distance is a Tapas joint.

Sarge has already blogged on Tapas, and that was a factor in our selection. Hunger may have had a role in our perception, but it was fabulous.  Spanish Rioja was involved also.

Back to our B and B and a good nights sleep.

The next day, we're up early (ish), for breakfast at an Italian joint. Today will be history day.  You may have figured out by now, that Sarge isn't the only amateur historian in the crew. So, we're going to wander Old Town and specifically Edinburgh Castle.

I am not an Army guy, but even I could look at that castle and see that it was virtually impregnable.

Old Town was very interesting, and we spent quite a bit of time wandering around.  The old side of the group sporting 2 replaced knees, 2 bad knees, 3 bad backs and a bad neck, peaked early and RTB'd for a well earned nap and a bit of liquid pain killer.

Dinner was back at the Italian Restaurant, where the wait staff was from Romania.  (Hey, it's like Rome, right?)

We need to get back to the room so we can contact the Airline Baggage guy AGAIN!  His name was Bob, he was from Pakistan.

We explain to him that we are departing early that next morning and would be in very small villages and unreachable for the next 4 days.  They needed to get the bags to us ASAP.

Bob told us the bags were on a courier truck, but they didn't know the B and B  flat number.

We tell Bob to have the courier call us directly.  International Cell @ $10/day was a godsend.

As I said, shortly after we went to bed, there's a loud knock on the door and "Praise the Lord" the bags have arrived.

Off the next morning on our tour.  The tour company was named Rabbies.  I wholeheartedly recommend them.  Our tour guide/driver was a young guy named Daniel.  A history major in college, he was a godsend for the amateurs in the group.  And, as things transpired, did way more than he had signed up for.

So, we're driving up the highway to get to the River Spey, when we're about to cross the Firth of Forth.  I asked if we might stop and he pulls over at a small sightseeing spot.  Daniel proceeds to tell us about the little islands in the Firth that looked kind of like warships.

That was by design to deter German U-Boats.  Unfortunately, it wasn't entirely successful.  He did point out an interesting development off in the distance.  The British Navy's new Aircraft Carrier, HMS Queen Elizabeth.

  Unfortunately, my picture from my little camera doesn't do it justice.

Back on the bus, and up through Perth and into Cairngorms National park (pronounced Carren' gorms with a pronounced roll of the Rs).

Beautiful drive through valleys sided by steep hilled mountains.  I spent the time assessing how many G's it would take for my F-15 to successfully transition from one Valley to another.

MBD, who suffers from Motion Sickness, didn't appreciate the trip as much.

We arrive in the small town of Braemar, and had lunch at a lovely hotel with an all-in-one Bar and Restaurant, I believe they call it a "Pub".

For some reason, I had a hankerin' for Fish and Chips and a Guinness.
I realized a little late that Sarge's requirement for pictures of food in pristine condition was not going to happen.

Our lovely waitress produced said sustenance in a prompt manner and responded to our thanks in a pronounced Slovakian accent.  Or maybe it was just my understanding of her Scottish Accent.

Dramamine for one  and other snooze inducing agents for the rest consumed, we're back on the road and finally arrive at our first tour stop.

The Glenlivet.

A very nice gentleman proceeded to escort us around the plant.  Evidently, as evidenced by the same series of presentations at four distilleries with minor variations, Barley is combined with water and allowed to ferment into a form of beer called wort.  This wort is then heated to specific temperatures until the alcohol evaporates.  That alcohol is then collected in three stages, the high alcohol, the correct level of alcohol and the low alcohol.  The correct alcohol is saved and the other two are combined and refermented to again extract the three stages.  This continues until the wort is basically completely converted.  What remains is called Pot Ale and is fed to the local livestock.  Lucky Beasts!

At that point, the alcohol is poured into barrels and allowed to ferment for a long time.

A bottle from this barrel retails for 15,000 pounds.  I don't know if there's any significance to the year. Sarge, any ideas?

After touring each of the distilleries, there was the requisite tasting.  Glenlivet and Macallan had 5 pours of about a 1/2 ounce each.  Glenfarclas had two pours of about an ounce. and Dalwhinnie had tastings combined with Chocolate.

For Lunch the second day, we stopped in the village of Tomintoul and visited The Whisky Castle which was a retail shop that featured Whiskys from all over Scotland (and apparently ships to the states, more to follow on this).  Tasted a few and bought one, a peaty Whiskey from Caol Ila (pronounced Cal'-Eel-Ah).

My nut allergic Son learned an important cooking lesson.  Little did he know Pesto is made with nuts. So his Turkey and Cheese with Pesto sandwich had unfortunate ramifications for him.  Later he asked me why he never had issues with the Pesto I made for him.  Lessee....I know you're allergic to nuts.  Hence I don't make it with them.  It's a Dad Thing!

We finish up the second day at Glenfarclas and travel back to our staging point in the quiet village of Aviemore (pronounced Av-eee'-more) where we visited a nice pub for dinner.

The young set is a little slow in getting to the restaurant, so the older generation settles in to a table and orders dinner.  MBD and Kathy order a salad.  I'm solidly looking for my 4th or 5th round of Fish and Chips for my meal, but the waitress starts with my wife, who orders Fish and Chips and then moves to Gary, the elder statesman of the group, who orders Fish and Chips.  At the last minute, I decide not to jump on the bandwagon and order what turns out to be a very nice braised Lamb Shank.  Top that off with a nice Australian Syraz and finish the evening with a neat Glenlivet Nadurra, Port Barrel.

Very relaxed we head back to our quarters, completely unaware of the impending issues.

Did you know that there is a form of Food Poisoning called Scombroid that comes from Fish?  Talk about a ticking time bomb.  If the fish is mishandled anywhere along the food chain, a histamine can be produced that causes acute, very violent, shall we say offloading events.  So, a few hours later, I awaken to the sounds of my beloved wife having a sincere discussion with the toilet.  I try to see if there's anything I can do, but no.  I stumble down to Gary and Kathy's room to see if they have anything for nausea (they are pharmacists in addition to Winemakers), only to find that Gary is experiencing the exact same issue.

This goes on all night.  In the morning I stumble down to the local Tesco (British Safeway), to see what they have over the counter to relieve the symptoms.  The two wounded birds are alternately sleeping and visiting the facilities.

The tour plan for the day is to visit Dalwhinnie then recover in Edinburgh for the train to London that evening.

Daniel arrives and we explain the situation, asking if he can take the young set to Dalwhinnie and then come back and pick us up on the way back to Edinburgh.  My navigation skills were somewhat lacking as Dalwhinnie is south of Aviemore and Edinburgh is south of Dalwhinnie.

Nevertheless, Daniel agrees to drop the kids off at Dalwhinnie and then drive back to Aviemore, pick us up and then drive back to Dalwhinnie, pick up the kids and then drive to Edinburgh.  That bought Mrs Juvat and Gary about 3 hours more sleep.

The trip to Edinburgh was mostly uneventful, although there were a few unscheduled stops.  The trip back to London for my Family was OK, Mrs. Juvat was clearly on the mend although not anywhere near mil power.

The next day we walked around at Westminster Abbey and crossed the Westminster bridge (what a difference a week makes), but Mrs Juvat faded pretty fast, so she and I returned to the hotel early.

The next morning, we boarded a 787, a really neat airplane.  The entertainment console has an option called window seat.  It allows you to select the left or right window and look outside on your console.  It also has a setting that allows you to select the cockpit view, which includes the HUD.

One guess where my console was for the entire flight.

So...While we thought our group was composed of 10 people, evidently we had a stowaway named Joe Btsplk tagging along.  He won't be invited next time.
In spite of a rash of bad luck, we had a blast, and Scotland ranks right beside New Zealand as my favorite places I've visited.  If you're looking for a recommendation, it has the Juvat Seal of Approval.

I'm sure Scottish Tourism stats will go through the roof now!
Added for Brigid, This was the bar at the Pub in question.


  1. I had not heard of good old Joe in quite a while. He used to hang around with my buddy, Al Capp, but they both are among the missing. It's a pity, I enjoyed their adventures. I second your recommendations on travel destinations. I recall a delightful evening, or three, at a pub in John o'Groats Scotland, and a ten day layover in Christchurch, New Zealand, waiting for the weather to clear at the South Pole. I loved New Zealand. It reminded me of the 1950s America, and the people were fantastic.

    1. I hadn't thought of New Zealand as 1950's America, but I think the description is apt. Auckland, however, I think was more like 1969 San Francisco, had a very hippie-like vibe to it, and not in a good way IMHO.

  2. We spent a month in Aberdeen, Scotland several years back and made the train trip to Edinburgh for a day. That was not nearly long enough to see Edinburgh. Because it was a bit wet and cold the day we were there, our first stop was a coffee shop to warm up. My daughter did not follow. She turned into a whiskey shop instead. Smart girl.

    1. Yes, well, when it's cold and wet, the Scots seem to be well rehearsed on ways to warm up. I agree that Edinburgh requires more than a day. We didn't even get close to seeing all we wanted to see in the castle, much less Old Town.

      So....I guess the bad news is, we'll just have to suck it up and go back! Darn the luck!

  3. Excellent AAR Juvat. Seeing that big smile on your new found pal Clarence Thomas, made me want to smile. He looks like a great guy.

    As to the £15,000 for a bottle of whiskey, let's just say that '53 was apparently a good year for sergeants, and whiskey. (Hhmm, those two things seem to be a natural fit...)

    Great post!

    1. Thanks.
      As to the £15000 bottle of Whisky, my intention was to get you a bottle for your upcoming birthday. That was right before Mrs. Juvat Dinozzo'd me in the back of the head. You'll have to settle for a T-Shirt.

    2. Well, yes...Except for the decision she made about 34 years ago. I still wonder if she knew what she was getting into.

    3. She's human.

      Not judging, just observing.


    4. May have been the only time I've been able to pull the wool over her eyes.

  4. Happy that the baggage woes weren't as dire as they can get.
    My friends, David & Wendy, live in Aviemore.
    He posts lots of pictures of the Cairngorms on koobecaf.
    They're from the other end of the island, so they speak a brand of English that's somewhat understandable.
    Just don't let him get started talking about train, light rail, or busses. DAMHIK

    1. Aviemore isn't that large a village. We were there for about 60 hours, quite likely that if they were in residence, we saw them in passing. (I spent a lot of time in the non-touristy parts of town. Pharmacies, Grocery Stores etc.)

  5. Thank you juvat for a very educational and entertaining post. Happy to read that things mostly worked out ok.

    Paul L. Quandt

  6. Wonderful post. Now I've added Scotland to my dream travel locations. I'm so sorry about the food poisoning. Always travel with Immodium tablets for diarrhea, just in case. I wish paregoric (sp?) Was still available. Anyway, glad everything ended up ok.

    1. First thing I did on return. Bought a bottle of Immodium, Dramamine and Benadryl. Apparently in the case of this specific type of food poisoning, an anti-histamine administered early can severely reduce the symptoms. They're all in my grab and go drop kit, now.


  7. I concur. Great AAR. I've got to get back there. Loved Rosyth and the Firth, Lossie was breathtaking (sound of freedom, too), John O'Groats (Oh dear, I seem to have run out of country!) indeed a delight and the Scapa Wreck tour cold, wet, miserable and entirely wonderful. Learned a new word there, scapathy -- condition resulting from too much time on the hook in Scapa Flow. I'm told that keeping your Haggis titre adjusted wards off a lot of food borne illness, but that could be Scots hokum.

    1. Yeah, I'd like to do all that, and I think we'll go back relatively soon.
      I did try Haggis with my breakfast. It was surprisingly good. Had a nice flavor to it.


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