Thursday, October 2, 2008

For those asking about my trip - where and why, for example...

Mmkay. I leave for the airport Thursday morning (Oct. 2nd) and won't be back until probably late Tuesday/early Wednesday (Oct. 8th). The Glasgow airport is mercifully only a 15 minute taxi ride from our hotel. And oooh, they only have those awesome black taxis with the doors that open the wrong way!! [/geek] I'm 90% sure I'll be taking my laptop (free WiFi in my room, plus I can upload my photos every day & clear off my cards), so I may be able to be in touch that way. My Mom has gotta be freaking at the thought of being without her daughter AND her husband AT THE SAME TIME (this has actually never happened in their 34 years of marriage), so she's hoping I'll find a way to access Facebook & can then pretend I'm only in the next room. Poor Mommy. (But my uncle is here with her the whole time we're gone, so he'll doubtlessly keep her occupied and thoroughly entertained.)

I called the hotel yesterday just to confirm everything (since we booked through Expedia, I figured it'd be wise to ensure that all our bases are covered before we jump on a plane), and it was hilarious. First I kept dialing it wrong - there's a zero you have to drop, and I never remember which one (which is why I put the CORRECT number above), so I kept getting told the number was out of service. NOT WHAT YOU WANT TO HEAR from a hotel at which you're supposed to be arriving in a few days!! So I sent an email to their reservations inquiries address, which said, in part,

Hello! I've been trying to get through via the telephone, but I'm being told the listed number is no longer in service. (This could, however, be as a result of me being from Canada and being hopeless at dialing internationally.)

Uh...d-uh. "Me Canadian! ME NO DIAL GOOD!!" This appearance of stupidity skyrocketed when I finally DID figure out how to get through, and - after not understanding a bloody word the woman at the front desk said by way of greeting - I had to confess to her that I'd also sent an email and that she could delete it now. She had a good laugh over that. "It's not Mars, dear!" she said in her lovely brogue, and I chuckled and explained the whole I've-never-been-off-the-continent thing. She got quite excited at that.

"Oooh, you've not been out of Canada and you've chosen us, then?" was what I believe she said (but don't quote me on it).

"Well, I've been to various parts of Canada and the U.S., but our phone numbers are a lot shorter here. We need simplicity."

That gave her more to laugh at, of course. "Let me check my schedule to see if I'll be at the desk when you check in, love," she said, which amused me, and after hearing pages flip for a moment (and listening to my phone bill rack up with each passing second), she said quite gleefully, something that sounded like, "Oh, aye! It'll be me here to greet you! We love having Canadians stay. You're a charming lot."

Pity I didn't understand what the hell she was saying when she spoke her name at the intro. It sounded Martian, anyway.

Oh, and I forgot to mention that, when she asked for my name so she could confirm the details, I said, "There are two rooms, both under the same last name but different first names."

"All righty," she said. "Last name, then?"

"It's Swanson. S-W-A..."

She laughed. "It's all right, dear. We have a lot of those."

*laughs* Yeah. I guess they would.

She also added that she'd try to get us rooms that overlook the pond, to which I responded, "You have a pond??" (As though somehow that's the most absurd, bizarre thing I could imagine..? I...dunno. I think my excitement about the trip has overtaken my IQ points.)

A moment of silence. "Why, yes, dear. We're called the Glasgow Pond Hotel."

"I just figured it was a pretty name."

Again she laughed. "No, dear. One side of our grounds is taken over by a large pond that's full of swans, which I'm sure you'd like to see from your window."

I assume this is because of my name...? Either way, the pond-side rooms are an extra £s;25 a night, and she wants to just give them to us for being Canadian and being Swansons and being phone-illiterate, so I'll take it! I'm rather looking forward to meeting this woman, whatever her name is. She made me day. (*LAUGHS* I meant to type MY, not ME. Oh, god, it's starting already.)

There's something to be said about staying in a Best Western no matter where you are. You have a reasonable expectation that things will be nice. Not fancy, but nice. Having said that, though, this one has just been overhauled, would seem they went for "fancy". They're graded as a 3-star (presumably because of the not-outrageous cost compared to the other hotels in Glasgow) but actually fall into the requirements of a 4-star, so...again, I'LL TAKE IT.

The website shares all sorts of happifying information, like the fact that the bar is open 24 hours a day. Whoo! That plus 24 hour room service and a dessert list longer than one's arm? Yeah. I'll have to be conscious of not spending too much time in my room. But it's really good to know that, at the end of an exhausting day of prowling about the countryside, we have such a nice place to crash. For whatever reason, my Dad and I each got a double room, so I plan to switch beds each night. And if I pick up any cute Scottish boys, I'll have somewhere to chuck them when I've gotten what I wanted and would prefer not to share a bed once I'm ready to sleep. Works out well, I think.

My Dad is going to have to be torn away from the huge flat screen LCD TVs that are on each of our walls. That could get interesting. By the way, the principal reason for getting separate rooms is because my father snores like the world is ending, but yes, it is in the back of my mind that I'd like to have at least one illicit hookup. Hah!

Yes, I am bad. But that makes me FUN. And on that particular subject, does anyone have any advice for me on how to snag me a Scottish one-night stand? I have the whole Canadian thing going in my favour, but if anyone would care to offer some tips (especially if you've had your own overseas hookup adventures!), I'm listening. Closely. I'd like to have the entire Scotland experience, if you get what I'm sayin'. Nadine and I were just discussing this the other night - my lack of whore-dom when I was at the prime age to slut about freely - so I'd like to remedy that with at least ONE international one night stand.

Morals? What morals? I never said I had any, did I? If I did, I was lying through my teeth. Besides, it's been 2 years since I last got any (we know who ruined me for a while), so methinks a vacation is a good time back in that saddle. (I'M KIDDING.)

I suspect we'll be spending a goodly amount of time in this lounge, because my father is a sucker for fresh scones, and they have an after-hours menu that puts Fran's to shame. (Toronto nightlife reference; don't mind me.) I'm also hoping that it'll be chilly enough to warrant them having their 7,012,548 fireplaces going. I swear, you look at pictures of this place and wonder how they managed to divide every single room and lobby and section of anything with a great big modern fireplace. Gorgeous! Not sure if I have one in my room, though, but as I said, I'll be distracted by the wall-sized TV. Who the hell said that the rooms in UK hotels are ridiculously small compared to North America??

I'm not positive, but I think this is a photo of the Glasgow Royal Concert Hall, which is where, on the evening of Sunday, October 5th,I'll be scratching one more thing off my Bucket List and finally seeing my most beloved band: Level 42. I canNOT put into words the degree of excitement I feel about this. And yep, I'm goin' alone. 4th row centre!! I've never been to a concert alone before, but I suspect this will be a lot of fun, because I can just make friends with everyone sitting around me. And, eventually, with the band (although I wish to hell Mark King had answered my diva-free request for a backstage pass; I only asked because I want photos to bring home to my Mom, and you can take pics during the show, so I HAVE to meet them! I'll use my womanly wiles if I have to. Flirt with their security guards. It can be done.)

We're also spending a day in Edinburgh, of course (and, if we can pull it off, Belfast as well), which will involve - among other things - one of the coolest walking tours I've ever heard about! It's called "The Ghosts & Ghouls Underground Tour, which is apparently creepy enough that they have to give you complimentary BOOZE once you get through it. (My Dad doesn't drink more than once every couple of years, which means he gets goofy after half a glass of wine; this oughta be fun.) About the tour: By day Edinburgh is a bustling metropolis – but at night the old buildings and narrow closes take on a more sinister air…A long history of murder, torture, hangings and plague has left a haunting legacy on the city's Old Town and ghostly apparitions now walk its streets.

Enter the underground vaults whose walls, it is said, have absorbed the memories of those who once lived and worked there. This part of the tour is not for the faint-hearted. Cling tightly to the person beside you: we try to leave with the same number as we had on going in!

Choose the extended tour and end your experience with a complimentary drink in the atmospheric Megget’s Cellar, a candlelit nook located above the Underground Vaults, where the guide will continue to entertain you with eerie tales from Edinburgh’s past.

Be Warned: Mercat Tours employs neither sound nor visual effects on this tour. If you see or hear something untoward during your time with us - Be Concerned !!!

Ohhh, yes. This is gonna be SO MUCH FUN. Add in a bus tour around Loch Lomond (which, as you can see from the photo, is incredibly beautiful... I seriously thought places could only look like this in the movies, after a lot of touch-ups from the FX crew. Apparently not...) and a whole bunch of cool stuff right around our hotel (like The Necropolis - how deliciously creepy to think my hotel is across the street from 3,500 corpses...), and whatever else catches our fancy, and it's gonna be epic. There are endless antique bookshops around our neighbourhood, which will have my father completely thrilled, and I think just being surrounded by that fantastic accent for most of a week will make the whole experience well worthwhile. Everyone's surprised that we're not going for longer, but between my Dad's work schedule (and now mine), money, and the odds that we'll be bloody knackered by the end of the fifth day, I think we're doing just fine.

[ Glasgow's Necropolis ]

I am also, as you can imagine, thrilled to pieces to discover that I'm going to the one city in the world that calls its subway "The Clockwork Orange". It's the weirdest little train - only 3 cars long, and it comes every 5 minutes, and it has a track that's only about 11km long! My hotel is close to the main train depot, so I'll definitely be hopping on at least once to take a spin around the underside of the city!


And as you can see... looks like - according to BBC's weather report for Glasgow, we'll be flying into a sunny, chilly day, which is exactly what we want!

So there you have it. I unfortunately can't promise postcards to everyone this time, because that could get SCARILY expensive, but if you want to email me your complete mailing address I will certainly do my very best.

One last question for those who do a lot more international travel than I do: What can I bring as far as toothpaste/mouthwash/lip gloss/other liquids when I pack?? I can't remember how to go about that whole "you can't have liquids on the plaaaaane" thing, so I'd like to know how to get around that or how to make it simplest. And how much can I bring back? Is there a monetary limit on the souvenirs I can come home with?

I can't believe I'll be on six different planes over the next two weeks, when everybody knows I HATE TO FLY. Oh, god. (And yes, I'll gladly take advice or anecdotes on HOW NOT TO FREAK OUT ON THE PLANES, too.) These are the right models but not necessarily the right airlines. I'm flying US Airways and British Airways only.

From Toronto to Philadelphia: Canadair RJ

From Philadelphia to Manchester: Airbus 330-300

From Manchester to Glasgow: EMB-135

And coming home...

From Glasgow to London: Boeing 737-400

From London to Philadelphia: Boeing 757

From Philadelphia to Toronto: Canadair RJ

AUGH! Some of them are just...way too small. ESPECIALLY THE FIRST AND LAST ONES. I barely kept it together on the EMBs from Los Angeles to Santa Barbara! *deep breath* Xanax and beer. Xanax and beeeeer.

ANYWAY. Consider that my comprehensive pre-Scotland post. It took me TWO HOURS to type. I need a nap now.

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