Tuesday we woke up, which is generally the best way to start a day, and decided to jump in the car and head to the Highlands. After some quick packing, and some obligatory yelling at the kids. we were out of the flat by noon. We programmed our navigator (we call her Betty) towards the town of Oban and hit the road -- the beautiful, beautiful, winding two lane road to Oban.
We hadn't booked ahead, but the tourist office found a place for us to stay just up the hill. Betty was a little unclear in her directions, and we ended up having to turn our gigantic, Ugly American boat of a French car around in a tiny gravel parking lot, and navigate a very steep exit onto a hairpin turn, which let to a one-way street. Tricky. Trickier when a manual transmission isn't second nature. Bob was behind the wheel, sweating bullets, as he started up the first time. The brakes were locked, the engine was screaming, and we weren't moving an inch. STOP! He tried again. This time as he started up, three little boys were walking down the road. Back up and try again. This time, flustered and frustrated, Bob accidentally kept it in reverse, and went careening DOWN into the parking lot, missing a car by inches, and hitting the wooden fence. Barely hitting the fence. Nudging the fence. Now - the acrid smell of burning brakes is wafting through the air, Brenna keeps repeating, "You're in reverse," and a man comes shooting out of the building yelling, "WHAT ARE YOU TRYING TO DO!"
Bob got out of the car to explain, and the guy just got in, shut the door, and started to try to get this problem solved. He was determined to get us out of his parking lot and away from his car. He was also a lot better at driving a stick-shift. It took a few minutes for him to maneuver it, and during that little time we all calmed down a bit. He got us on the road, parked, and we went to look at the fence. Even though the pole was leaning a little, and some wood had broken off, he wouldn't let us pay for it. We all had a moment to laugh, shook hands, and were off. Nice guy. Shaken Bob.
Brenna drove the rest of the way, explaining to the kids that Daddy needed a drink, and that we were going for that drink as soon as we dropped our luggage off. We walked to dinner.
The next day we took a seal watching boat tour onboard the Mara Mohr, skippered by Ron Stevenson. Owen has this to say about skipper Ron, "He was awesomely awesome and full of awesomeness." (He let the kids pilot the boat, so I think they're a little biased). Ron is a skipper and a Scotsman to his core. He's witty and sensible and irreverent. He had so much to say about Scottish history and UK politics, and by the end of the hour on-board we really just wanted to sit down and have lunch with the man. The seals were scarce on their rock. The day before an Easterly had been blowing, and seals don't like it. Skipper Ron doesn't like an East wind either. "There's no good in it. Makes the cows grumpy, as well as the seals," he said.
After the boat ride we headed straight to The Oban Distillery, which was all of 60 steps away. You start smelling the fermenting barley on the street -- that beautiful scent somewhere between good whisky by the fire and baking bread. The history and tradition surrounding Scotch whisky is amazing. We're told that there are around five million Scots, nine million sheep, and 25 million oak whisky barrels in Scotland. These people really understand good living. At the end of the tour we sampled 14 year old undiluted Oban Scotch straight from a cask -- Heaven! And - at 68% alcohol content - potent too.
Do you know that in America it is law that you can only use an aging barrel one time when making bourbon? America ships thousands of used barrels a year to Scotland, where the thrifty Scots use them over and over, to produce whisky that I think most people would find at least as good as Wild Turkey. Ahem. One lady on the tour, upon hearing this fact, leaned over and said to her husband, "Seems a terrible waste of all those barrels."
Yeah - well - then where would we grow our tomatoes in our patio gardens!
We bought a bottle of Distillers Edition Double Matured Oban single malt, (you're jealous) and headed on to our next destination. Which we will tell you about in another post.
Oh My! A cliff hanger! We've worked in TV too long. Don't worry - as in most of our posts, not much happens. One thing we'll tell you, Brenna will be behind the wheel.