Today I learned that the answer to everything in life is 42. Don’t worry, I will never abandon number 17, which will forever be my favourite. But today I learned why number 42 is so significant. Could it be that the answer to the ultimate question of life, the universe, and everything really is 42? Or is this number only significant to me now because today is my birthday and today I turned 42?
I guess 42 is a nice, even, solid number. It is divisible in so many ways (practice your math… 21 x 2, 14 x 3 or 6 x7). It shows you have definitely reached the age of some maturity, but you are still considered relatively young. I like that. I think 42 works for me.
And on my 42nd birthday I woke up in the beautiful Scottish Highlands city of Inverness and made my way across the country to the bustling city of Aberdeen. And I saw so much in between.
As I wrote about last week, my husband, David, and I just celebrated our 20th anniversary. We gave each other the gift of a trip, just us, to mark the important milestone. And we booked the trip to coincide with my birthday soon after. On Tuesday evening, with two kids at camp, and number three safely in the hands of my parents, we flew to Scotland for a short trip to a place I have wanted to see for so many years.
Why Scotland, so many people asked me. Aren’t there great places to visit closer to home or across Canada? Weren’t you just in London a few months ago? The answer to all of these questions is, yes. I love to travel in Canada and have been lucky to see so much of the country. And I will be traveling out to Nova Scotia in a few weeks to visit my kids at camp. But Scotland is a place I have dreamed about for over twenty years. It’s historic cities, ancient castles, lakes (or lochs as they call them here) and scenic countryside intrigued me. The rich history of its people, clans, kings, queens, warfare and dedication to its freedom drew me to it.
I’m finally here. And I love it.
I woke up this morning, on the day I turned 42, in the northern part of Scotland. Inverness is small but mighty and I loved my short stay there. Our first stop was a short drive south to the famous Loch Ness and a ruined castle on the shores of this mysterious lake.
Urquhart castle changed hands many times (different groups liked to invade it and plunder it until it was finally burnt down, intentionally, in the late 17thcentury). As I stood atop the castle’s tower, I could see why everyone wanted this place. I was mesmerized by the scenery and beauty of the lake. I don’t know if a little monster lives in those deep waters or not (but wow do the locals ever play that one up and sell every kind of merchandise imaginable), but that is one of the most beautiful lakes I have ever seen.
Back in our little rental we went (I could write a whole blog post about David driving a manual shift car on the left side of the road) and drove northeast to the town of Findhorn, on the North Sea. We had booked a two-hour nature and wildlife boat tour on the North Sea, and I’m so glad we did. We had blue skies and sunshine, gentle waters and warm temperatures.
The only problem was that the wildlife, for the most part, decided to take an afternoon nap. The seals were cute and there were hundreds of birds. But the dolphins and whales were in hiding. No problem. The boat and water were pleasant, our guide was friendly and knowledgeable and the other passengers were friendly. David and I were the only non-Scots in the group, so maybe we seemed exotic to them.
We took the long, rather indirect route along the coast all afternoon, on our way to our day’s final destination of Aberdeen. We drove through adorable beach towns like Cullen and Banff (the original one, not in Alberta) and stopped in the fishing town of Peterhead for dinner.
Thanks to too many Google searches, I discovered that Peterhead is one of, if not the largest fishing port in the UK and that there was a local restaurant in its fish market that was highly recommended. There was no mention of how hard it was to find. There are few things more frustrating, after a long day of driving, when you are hungry, then searching for a restaurant that doesn’t want to be found. After 30 minutes of going in circles we found the Dolphin Café, 25 minutes before it closed for the day. But it was worth it. Those may be one of the best fish and chips I have ever had.
We continued on our way south down the coast to today’s final destination of Aberdeen. I don’t know much about this city other than it is the hub of the oil and gas industry in the UK and it’s a popular location for my TV show House Hunters. I am sitting here in my hotel room right now, in the heart of downtown with a view over the city and even the water, and the city seems nice. We had to circle for a long time to find our hotel, and I won’t go into the details of that meltdown (as in my meltdown).
My birthday was topped off this evening at a local café, where I finally got my piece of birthday cake. What’s a birthday, especially birthday number 42, without cake. Sticky toffee pudding and toffee cheesecake. You can’t go wrong.
Our road trip through Scotland continues for a few more days, as we head into Cairngorms National Park to see some castles then down to Edinburgh for some city fun. I am loving every minute of my anniversary and birthday tour. The big question now is, where will we go next?