It was early morning when my alarm rang, signaling the start to a day full of travel. We got on a train in London that took us to Luton Airport, and then boarded a bus to the correct terminal. After checking in at the Easy Jet Airline desk and watching our luggage slowly edge away on the conveyor belt, we departed in search of breakfast. I dined on a latté and Pain Au Chocolat (or something…) before walking to the busy security check point. My heart was racing, as it always does when going through security, and it didn’t help matters when, as I stepped through the metal detector threshold, alarm bells started singing. They pointed to the side, and there I stood, my entire body visibly shaking until they found the time to do a body search. All I had on my person was a pair of leggings (without pockets), underclothes, and a shirt. There was literally no where that I could possibly conceal anything. Of course they had to choose me though.
I survived, and after an hour of waiting we climbed up the stairs to the plane and took our seats. It was about forty minutes of flying through white clouds until we landed in Inverness. I was struck by the large expanse of blue waters, the emerald green landscape, the mountains still capped with snow. As we grew closer to the ground
I saw the small city of Inverness, pastures with sheep and cows, patches of gorse and heather. The sun was out in Scotland. We climbed down the metal staircase onto the runway, grabbed our luggage from the first room we walked into, and stumbled out into the sun with feet weary from a day’s traveling. It was a long stroll through a large long-term parking lot but eventually we reached my uncle’s car. The two hour drive up to Thurso was beyond words. The landscape outside my window shifted from rolling hills to jagged mountains dotted with spongy heather and flocks of sheep. Every few minutes was a ruin of an old stone barn. The coastline revealed white sand beaches, dramatic cliffs, clear blue water. The sky changed about five times on that drive- from sunny, to partial clouds, to rain, to sun, to clouds again. We stopped for a late lunch at a small café overlooking the ocean. They were serving hot tea, hearty stew and warm cheese scones with butter. The atmosphere was so warm, the people welcoming. I just sat there and enjoyed the sound of lilting Scottish accents.
Thurso, the northernmost town on mainland Scotland, is within the county Caithness. It lies beside the River Thurso, right where its mouth meets the Atlantic Ocean. At its center are a few charity shops, a clothing store or two, a museum, hotel, and some lovely restaurants. The road leads right to the ocean, where a fishmonger thrives on the sale of fresh seafood, and a café serves delicious lunches. The summer temperature gets up to a blistering 60 degrees Fahrenheit, while the winter has been known to cause wind so severe that everyone is advised to stay at home. It’s a hearty place, with hearty food, and hearty people.
As I looked on at this unfamiliar place, I felt an inexplicable sense of belonging.
To be continued…