Saturday, June 8, 2013

Christmas in Scotland

View from Edinburgh Castle
We spent our final Christmas in Europe in Scotland. December is an odd choice to visit the country, but we correctly figured that if we wanted to get to Scotland before moving back to the U.S., Christmas was the time. BB [Before Baby], trip planning went very differently. I would exhaustively research our destination, possible activities, and hotels. When we left for Scotland, Baby Nora was just shy of four months old. I was lucky I had clean clothes for us. We did have a guidebook, but I had not even cracked it open. So imagine our surprise when everyone from hoteliers to waiters to shopkeepers would greet us, ask where we were from, then say, "So are here for Hogmany?" We were clueless. Finally, as Nathan was updating his Facebook page, a Scottish friend asked the same question and Nathan admitted that we had no idea what this Hogmany was. That is when we found out that one of the hottest, most vibrant, New Year's celebrations in the entire world is in Scotland. Hogmany. We were flying back to Naples on December 30. So much for that.
Our Edinburgh hotel, The Scotsman

Resting up for their Big Night
Scotland was remarkably warm for our time there, but it did indeed rain every day but one. We started out in Edinburgh, arriving to our hotel about 9pm, very hungry. We thought nothing of heading out to dinner at 9:30pm. Here in Naples, the families with young children show up around 10ish, so we were ahead of the rush. Scotland is apparently more like the U.S. The restaurants were closing. No problem. We remembered the great pub grub from Ireland, so we looked for a pub. Music would be a happy bonus. No go. Babies are not allowed in pubs. Again, here in Italy, babies are allowed everywhere - fanciest restaurant in town? No problem. Bar? They offer to bring the baby juice. Coffee bar so small it's standing room only? Wheel that stroller in. We returned to our hotel still hungry and opted for sandwiches from room service. The next day we enjoyed strolling up and down Edinburgh's beautiful, historic Royal Mile, anchored at one end by the Edinburgh Castle and the other by Holyrood Palace. Stopping off at Cadenhead's Whisky provided a little warming cheer. Some sunshine peeked through our second day, as we toured the Castle, walked through New Town, and got to see reindeer! Edinburgh had a huge, Christmas Market going on, which we walked through briefly, but mostly, we just enjoyed the atmosphere of the old town. 

Edinburgh's Royal Mile - isn't it beautiful, even in the rain!

Driving to Isle of Skye through the Highlands - stunning!
On the night before we were to drive to the remote, Isle of Skye, we landed in the Emergency Room (or A&E in the UK) with Nora. She was diagnosed with bronchiolitis due to RSV - basically, a respiratory viral infection. She did not need to have oxygen, but we were instructed to watch her breathing carefully and to take her into the hospital on the Isle of Skye  if we noticed certain issues with her breathing. We were quite nervous about this, of course. After a drive through the stunning, Scottish Highlands on Christmas Eve, we settled into our hotel, Hotel Eilean Iarmain, and walked over to the hotel's very fancy restaurant. We were seated next to a nice couple from town, there for a nice dinner out, and chatted with them briefly. After dinner, we ran into them in the hotel lounge, a warm and cozy spot for pre or post dinner drinks and relaxing. Chatting briefly again, we mentioned our nervousness on being in such a remote area with the baby sick...turns out the lady was a doctor at the hospital and her husband a nurse. They allayed our fears completely and gave us directions to the hospital should an emergency arise. We never had to use those directions, but Nora did have to sleep upright in her stroller every night, and I woke up roughly every 7 minutes to check on her. Until I came down with the flu myself. Then Nathan had to take care of both of us in between much deserved jaunts to the hotel bar (open on Christmas Day - yay!) for a wee dram. Until he also came down with the flu. We were one sorry family. Severely ill, rain, and cold...and we still loved Scotland. That says a lot about a country.

Christmas 2012, Hotel Eilean Iarmain on Isle of Skye - our holiday home
Despite our illnesses, we were determined to see what we could manage, so we did a couple of Isle of Skye drives before sadly departing our lovely loch-side hotel that fed us yummy food and local whisky and even had Santa leave a few gifts for us on Christmas morning. The lounge of the hotel served as a guest gathering place, where we could make friends and enjoy Christmas in the company of other travelers. Leaving Isle of Skye, we went to Oban (via a drive by Loch Nessie sightings for us though), mainly for the Oban distillery, but also because it was supposed to be a charming town. It probably is, but we mostly just slept. We'd love to go back to Scotland again and not all three get sick. And at a time when Nora is allowed in the pubs so we can enjoy the music, so I suppose that will be in 16 years time or so that we can plan another trip there.
Loch Ness, but no Nessie in sight


  1. Your blog is not helping me "sleep when the baby sleeps." But I'm glad Jodi told me about it; I may have to read the whole thing from the beginning.