There is London and there is Rome. There is Vienna and New York City, Berlin and Brazil, Copenhagen and New Zealand and there is Switzerland and Sweden and Singapore and Seoul. There is Paris. (there is detroit, too).
I fell hard for Scotland.
I fell as much for the hilly stone streets as I did for the tartan wool blankets, as much for the small art shops as for
those beautifully ancient castles. But it’s the people I love most. I knew it from the second I put one foot on the bus (“Excuse me, this goes to the city center, right?” “Well done, well done,” he said with the most charming grin. The
name of the bus is Airport-to-City). I’m as weary of superlatives as I am of generalizations, but the Scottish, man. They’re something special. Each encounter, male or female, young or old – they’ve all got a twinkle in their eye, an easy laugh at the ready, never hesitating behind a kind, guiding word. They are full of joy, a bit different than happy. They seem to have joy in them, like a thing they carry around with intention.
And as for those castles, they command your attention, you know. And you listen obediently. You stop in the street, let your arms go limp at your sides, and you gaze up. Awe-struck and giddy, but silently so because the majestic-ness of it all leaves you without a voice.
Scotland is a country that knows how to do ‘cozy’ well. Really, really well. I know it has to be just beautiful in warmer months, but there was something in the air this weekend. A chill, yes. (Look! A Sunday morning surprise)
But inside the air – inside that chill – there were sparks of energy, fine-tuned … those brisk, short winds that hit your eyelids when you walk out onto the sidewalk. The slick sound of skates on ice, of Nat King Cole’s voice singing to you near the Ferris Wheel, of a letter to Santa sliding into the big metal mailbox. In the center of the Christmas Market, in the center of Edinburgh, with the sun up high and the Castle over your head, Scottish cold’s got magic.
It means warming your hands around a clay mug of mulled wine or warm whiskey… what about the Hot Buttered kind? Whiskey with spiced butter batter? Or, Hot Bannockburn? Whiskey, Ruby Port, Baked Oranges studded with Cloves, Nutmeg, Ginger, & Allspice? That’s a direct quote from the menu. The steam twists in the air above your mug, the spices dance on the tip of your nose, and the slow sips warm your soul.
And it means picking a pub that’s quiet on the outside and bustling on the inside, Scottish beats audible from the street. And if it’s called The Beehive Inn, twist the door knob and walk right in. The frost on the windows is real, and so are the people who will surround you, and smile, and ask you to join their dance.