Day 227: Shopping on the Royal Mile, Fringe and Saying Goodbye


Today marked our return to Edinburgh and our last full day in Scotland. We said a fond “See you again soon” to Wilson, who made our stay in Lauder so pleasant. And boarded the bus bound for the city.

As if blessing us, the sun shone all day, occasionally sliding behind a fluffy cloud for a moment, only to reappear and stream golden light onto us and Edinburgh. It’s the only day we had here without rain.

Arriving in Edinburgh we made our way to the Hilton near the airport, in preparation for flying out tomorrow at noon. But this was not a day of relaxing. After we dropped off our luggage we took a bus back to Old Town. We wanted to savor every moment of our time left in Scotland, and each of us had a list of purchases to make. Mindy and I also wanted one last afternoon tea in this bonnie land.

When we first arrived in Edinburgh, from Glasgow, I didn’t notice a big difference in the feel of this city, other than an ancientness in Old Town that I didn’t feel as deeply in Glasgow. However, after spending several days in Lauder and the Borders, where life moves at a wee bit slower pace, I immediately felt the shift in energy when the bus pulled into the bus station. It wasn’t a bad energy, but a surge of strong busy energy, connected to thousands of people.

Nowhere is this bustling energy more apparent right now than on the Royal Mile in the heart of Old Town. The Fringe Festival is still going strong, continuing until August 25. It is the largest art and entertainment festival in the world and has been held each August for the last 67 years. Performers from all over the world showcase their talent in more than 3,000 shows. While venues for shows are all over Edinburgh, many performances take place in buildings along the Royal Mile or in the open air in the streets in and around the Mile. Performances range from singing and mime to plays, comedy routines and musicals, from the spectacular to the downright weird!

As we approached the Royal Mile on foot, the bustle and busyness and noise came out to meet us, rolling over us like a wave. Thousands of people were shoulder to shoulder on this famous strip of road as performers took to the streets, sidewalks and makeshift stages. We divided up. Harry headed to a store he wanted to visit while Mindy and I started on our shopping lists. Amazingly, our first two stops provided exactly what we were searching for.

Mission accomplished, except for buying Scottish tea to bring home, we gathered Harry and began the search for a spot to settle for afternoon tea. This proved more challenging than we thought it would! As Harry would gladly testify, we walked a long time, looking for just the right place, only to push through the throng and discover we’d made a huge circle, back to where we had started. Not finding a new shop to try, we returned to a restaurant we had eaten dinner at earlier in the week and had a late lunch followed by a simple tea. It was perfect actually. After our light meal we had a cup of tea and a bite of bakewell tart, which was a deliciously tart cake with fruit filling and almond flavoring.

We again split up to complete our shopping, Harry to buy a book while we girls headed to a tea store. We are serious about continuing afternoon tea when we return home. We previously bought Scottish cookbooks and today we bought Scottish tea. I can’t wait to have afternoon tea in my garden at home.

I have to admit a pang and tear filled eyes as we walked away from the Royal Mile. It’s not because I don’t want to return home. I do! And I’m exited to see my family and friends and jump back into the real estate business. No, the brief moment of sorrow is in feeling the separation from this beautiful place I love so much. But more than sorrow, I feel gratitude and joy for this wonderful journey that has so deeply connected me with my roots, with this amazing country and with new friends. I drank in all that I could and the trip feels completed. I’ll carry this experience in my heart no matter where I am. I look forward to my next visit, and bringing others with me who want to share the journey!


Day 225: Thirlestane Castle


A very long time ago, a wee lass with the last name of Lauderdale, heard about a far away place called Scotland. Listening to stories about this place and hearing that her family came from a little village called Lauder ignited a fire in her heart, even though to her limited understanding, her family consisted of a daddy and a mommy and younger sisters living with her. Stories of a castle that still existed sounded like a magical fairy tale, and that magic enchanted the wee lass and created a strong desire to see this place. Today, half a century later, with the fire still burning within her, the grown woman stood at last before the castle, which was magical indeed, and felt such gratitude that in writing about the experience, the feeling could not be contained and leaked out of her eyes.

Oh what a long journey this has been, from my first longing to see Scotland and be in Lauder, to the actual experiencing of it. All the time melted away today as Mindy, Harry and I arrived in Lauder. I have loved every moment of my journey through Scotland. And yet at the back of my mind, the mantra of I am going to Lauder has reminded me of the experience to come and the fulfillment of a dream.

Being in Lauder, feeling the ancient roots of my family’s heritage, walking the village street, seeing Thirlestane Castle and wandering through its rooms, knowing the portraits of long gone men and women are connected to me is not only the pinnacle of this trip, it is the pinnacle of a lifetime journey to get here.

The Lauderdales of America are connected to Clan Maitland of Scotland and the Border town of Lauder through a single ancestor who traveled to the United States long ago. For 700 years Thirlestane Castle has been home to the Maitlands. A long line of earls has arisen from this place, with the current 18th Earl of Lauderdale, Ian, residing in London. The 2nd earl, John Maitland, became the Duke of Lauderdale and was a powerful man in Scotland and England. The castle is currently resided in by Gerald Maitland-Carew and his family.

As a child, and later as an adult, hearing and reading about Scotland, the castle, earls and a duke, were fuel for my imagination and my desire. Going to Scotland to see it all for myself was a matter of when, not if. For years, a corner of each of my vision boards has been devoted to images of Scotland, a visual reminder of a childhood dream that grew as I grew. How amazing, during this year of firsts, that the opportunity arrived with an invitation from my cousin Mindy to travel to Scotland with her and her son, Harry. Mindy’s mother and my father were sister and brother, Lauderdales who passed on that Scottish blood to us, and have now both passed out of this lifetime. Mindy and Harry have dreamed of Scotland all their lives as well. I can’t imagine anyone better to live out this experience with than these two.

It was surreal today, standing at the castle, taking pictures outdoors with my camera. We slowly moved through the rooms that are open to the public. In the large paneled library, I saw an old black and white photo of a Maitland who looked like my dad. There is such history there, and a sense of time moving on, highlighting, briefly, this earl, that countess, this family. Time still moves on. The castle has faced decay and the threat of ruin and has needed extensive restoration, which continues today.

I felt small, to be in such an ancient place. In quieting my mind’s chatter I could hear the echoes of generations of people living, in joy and in sorrow, within the thick walls. I could feel the connection, their souls with mine. And I left a part of my spirit, my energy, simply by being there, to merge with the family memories that flow through that grand place.

I am a Scot. To paraphrase T.S. Eliot, I have arrived at the place where I started, and have known it for the first time. I came home. And I will carry home back with me to Missouri, as an ember that continues to burn in my heart, until I return again.


Day 220: Exploring Glasgow


Today, after a long night of sleep, we were up early and feeling like ourselves again. Before we set out to further explore Glasgow, we had a hardy traditional breakfast. Our plates arrived laden with bacon, which looked more like ham or Canadian bacon, sausage, an egg, baked beans, tomato, flat bread and black pudding. I jumped right in by trying the black pudding first and it was excellent! The whole breakfast was and gave us the energy we required for a full day of getting to know Glasgow.

Our friendly and extremely helpful concierge, Colm, pointed us in the right direction to locate a post office (the best place to exchange currency) and gave us £1 off vouchers for the City Sightseeing Glasgow bus. For £11 we saw the entire city and learned of her rich history. There were 28 stops where we could hop off and later hop back on without paying an additional fee. We toured the city and on the second time around got off at several points of interest.

First stop was the Glasgow Cathedral, and located behind and above it, the Necropolis. The cathedral was beautiful, full of history, medieval looking. We slipped downstairs into the crypts to look around in the hushed atmosphere. There is still an active congregation that meets in the cathedral.

Back outside we climbed the hill east of the cathedral to the Necropolis. This city of the dead is a Victorian cemetery established in 1833. 50,000 people are buried here although there are only 3500 monuments. Many of these memorials are massive. Apparently Glasgow’s wealthy were laid to rest here. I’ve never seen such amazing stone statues and structures as stood in long curved rows in the Necropolis.


Our next stop was the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum. We spent a pleasant hour and a half wondering through the exhibits. There was much to see and learn about Scotland’s art, history and natural sciences. There were also paintings by Monet, Rembrant and Salvador Dali. They had an impressive collection of arms and armor.

On we ventured, as the day wore on, to the Willow Tea House. Mindy and I especially wanted to experience an authentic afternoon tea. What a delight! Our afternoon tea consisted of Scottish breakfast tea, 4 varieties of finger sandwiches, scones with butter and strawberry jam, two kinds of cakes and shortbread cookies. After our large breakfast we had skipped lunch. This was a welcome interlude, both for refreshment and to rest weary legs. Mindy and I agreed we could get very used to this daily practice!

From the tea house we walked to nearby shops to browse while Harry visited a gaming store. The rain that had held off gently fell. I think I’d have been disappointed if we hadn’t experienced the famous Scottish weather. Rain doesn’t affect the Scots, and it didn’t slow us down. From this street of shops we found our way back to the hotel.

What a wonderful day! We learned so much, could understand the soft Scottish brogue better and felt comfortable finding our way around the city. In fact, walking to dinner tonight, someone stopped ME and asked for directions. I knew how to direct them successfully to George Square.

Several times today, as we toured this ancient and great city, I literally pinched myself to make sure this was real. For so long I have desired to visit this country, this homeland of my heart and soul. It is very real and I am loving every second. Tomorrow we head north to Loch Ness and the Highlands. I look forward to the rugged beauty we will surely find there.


Day 207: First Purchases for Scotland Trip

Purchases for Scotland trip 2e

Today’s first, although small in the grand scope of things, was exciting for me. With my trip to Scotland only 11 days away, I started on my list of items to purchase. I’m not one who enjoys shopping. However, searching for and finding specific things related to the trip was fun and heightened my anticipation.

The first item to get crossed off the list was a good pair of walking shoes. My cousins and I intend to go where our hearts lead us while in Scotland. We will make use of public transportation for outlying day trips, but for the most part, we will be exploring Scotland on our feet! I have other shoes that I’ll pack also, but I splurged on a very comfortable, very supportive pair of shoes that I hope will serve me well.

I also purchased an international converter and plug in set. With a cell phone to charge and the feminine necessities of hair dryer and straightener accompanying me, I had to have these items. My laptop computer is staying home, so my iPhone will be important, not only for staying in touch with family and clients while I’m away, but for staying up to date on my blog. There will be many, many firsts during this trip, indeed, the entire journey will be a huge first. I hope to be able to pick one or two new experiences each day to blog about. While I was out shopping, I talked to a representative at AT&T about adding an international plan. I got the info I needed concerning texting, calling and data plans. It would appear the best data plan is to make use of the hotels free wi-fi service!

I picked up a brightly colored luggage tag for my big black suitcase. I discovered on a trip to California that many people have large black suitcases. Waiting at the airport for luggage is challenging when so many identical suitcases spin by. I’m hoping the green tag will alert me and I can locate my luggage quickly. I wanted a plaid or tartan tag. Perhaps I can find one in Scotland.

My last purchases today were a couple of shirts, from Cato. I’ve been watching the weather in Scotland. Although this is summer for them, as it is for me, their temperatures are much lower than Missouri’s scorching heat. Today’s high in the Borders was a brisk 66 degrees, with a low of 49. I’ll mostly wear jeans and assorted shirts. With the cooler temps, I’m selecting tops with sleeves that can roll up or stay down and shirts that can be layered together if it’s really cool. I’m also searching for a lightweight, waterproof jacket to purchase. I’ve only found one so far and held off buying it until I’ve exhausted other options. Apparently, it’s just a little early here in Joplin to be shopping for a jacket.

I have more items to buy, but this was a start. I am so excited about my upcoming trip. In fact, I am so excited I am having trouble sleeping at night. My mind takes off and in my imagination, I’m already there, exploring, meeting people, experiencing so many new things. I have to bring myself back, gently, to the present moment and relax, and allow myself to enjoy, for now, the mounting anticipation. Very soon, it will be time to fly to the homeland that I have never seen, and discover what draws me, compels me, to Scotland. I’m a patient person, normally. I can wait. But just barely!

scotland map heart e

Day 186: Passport

 passport e

Today’s first is a very exciting one for me. I received my passport. I’ve never had one before. I’ve not needed one. The only trip I’ve taken beyond the borders of the USA was to Mexico, back when a passport wasn’t needed. When the envelope arrived in the mail today, I know I held my breath as I carefully opened the package and slipped the blue passport book from within. My passport. My upcoming trip became very, very real.

All my life, I’ve wanted to go to Scotland. As a wee girl, I heard my mom and dad talking about how the Lauderdales came from this country across the ocean. My mom told me stories of that far away place and showed me on a map where Scotland was. A spark ignited in my little heart that has burned brightly all these years. No other dream has occupied a place within me for so long, without being fulfilled.

Scottish map

As a young adult, I researched Scotland myself. The Lauderdales are connected to the Maitland Clan, in the Borders of Scotland. I learned our family history. I looked at pictures of Thirlestane Castle, in the village of Lauder, where my ancestors came from and where current distant cousins still live. I found myself feeling homesick for a land I’d never seen. The sound of bagpipes magnified the ache I felt and caused my breath to catch in my chest. Scotland has called to me, haunted me, my whole life.

I’ve been making vision boards for quite a few years now. Every year, there is a section devoted to Scotland. I’ve never doubted that someday I would go there, it has always been a matter of when. This year, amazingly, during my year of firsts, that opportunity has arisen. My cousin on my dad’s side, Mindy, and her son Harry, have invited me to join them on a Scottish adventure. The three of us depart next month. The trip is paid for, hotels booked, flights secured. And yet holding my passport in my hands today, made it all seem real. This is happening.

What an incredible series of firsts this trip will be. I’ll be blogging daily from Scotland, which will be a great way to capture and remember each day. My heart and mind will be open, ready to receive and learn. I expect there are great mysteries for me to discover in the land of my ancestors, and there will be a sense of coming home. I will find myself and what is deeply true about me, in this ancient place. I can’t wait!

Scottish flag