S C O T L A N D : D A Y 1 3
AUGUST 31 (Thursday) -- Leslie Castle to Stirling
The only complaint I was able to muster against Leslie Castle is that I found my bed uncomfortable. But that may simply have been a result of my being accustomed to the terrible mattress I use at home. Regardless, it seems gauche to complain, considering how satisfied I was with every other aspect of my too-brief stay with the Leslies.
And to cap it all off, Leslie hugged each of us as we reluctantly departed. To an American, especially one from the South, this may not seem like much of an event. But if the English are known for their reserve, the Scots are likewise not much given to such physical displays of friendliness, so Leslie's farewell came as a wonderful surprise. If anything could have further cemented our appreciation for the warm and open welcome we found at Leslie Castle, this would have been it.
As we forced ourselves into our cars and back onto the road for the long trip south to Stirling, we found ourselves comparing notes on what we each enjoyed most about this part of our trip. We were looking forward to sharing this information with everyone we knew, so that they could enjoy the pleasures of Leslie Castle for themselves.
And then we all stopped talking and looked at one another. And the same thought began running through our minds: "Wait a minute--if I go around telling people how great this place is, I might not be able to get a room when I come back."
It was that good.
On the drive south down twisting little roads (one of which went through Bridge of Cally where I insisted on having my usual shepherd pie lunch), I began patting myself on the back for having arranged our itinerary so that our Leslie Castle stay came near the end. I was glad that something so perfect would cap what might be the trip of a lifetime for some of us.
Eventually we entered Stirling. Trying to find our hotel, The Golden Lion, in what in Scotland is a "big city" soon turned into a minor nightmare; we couldn't seem to get where we wanted to go. We ran into congested roundabouts from which we emerged going the wrong way. We got stuck in busy downtown traffic with no sign of where our hotel was. We were repeatedly forced to trundle down a pedestrian walkway "closed to non-commercial traffic."
I'm embarrassed to admit that I was fervently glad that Beth was driving instead of me. And when finally we did find The Golden Lion, I drafted myself to grab some of our bags and check in while the others parked out front in a no-parking zone. In retrospect, I shouldn't have gotten as agitated as I did. After all, it wasn't that big a deal. But for some reason, I was profoundly unhappy with life in general.
Maybe it was finding myself back in the noisy, crowded, dirty big city after having just spent the perfect day in the country. Maybe I was just tired from nearly two weeks of traveling. Or maybe it was something else. Whatever it was, I was getting cranky.
So when Ann and Beth decided to cruise the nearby mall, I left them to it and went back to my room to relax. It seemed like the best thing I could do for all of us.
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