Today’s Blog from the Concert Choir Members:
Today we had an early and hurried start to the day, we traveled by bus and two ferries until the afternoon when we reached the Isle of Iona. The island was so beautiful and felt like we were in a completely different country. The water was shades of blue and green and there was white sand instead of rocky beach giving the coast and almost Caribbean feel. There was even a ship that looked straight from the Pirates of the Caribbean. Although the island was gorgeous there was nearly 5 times as many tourists as there are inhabitants, so everything was fairly expensive compared to prices on the mainland. After the recital in the medieval Iona Abby, we traveled back to our original port in Oban where we had fish and chips in a restaurant!
Wind, so much more alive than rocks that it so violently, (yet aimlessly) thrusts itself upon and I wonder which is older – the rocks or the wind. For the rocks, peeking from beneath grass greener than the very color of all things living, have seen this land and breathed this land since before we knew of it. Yet, the wind, which is my support, the wind that can bear the weight of my body and soul has tossed the grass of these hills perhaps longer.
A day on the road was delightfully restful after the intense hurried pace of yesterday. This morning we drove to Oban and took a ferry to Iona, quick a bit rockier than everything else we have seen of Scotland so far. The hills were just as gray as they were green. While on Iona we visited a craft store where we purchased some Iona marble and soap. We sat by the seashore overlooking the Abby and Nunnery and had some hummus and pita bread. I had to go down to the shore and put my feet in the water, it was incredibly cold but well worth it. The water was crisp and clear – standing in it made me feel as if the oceans and mountains were connected to me.
Iona was my favorite part of the day. The water was so blue and the land was so green that the view seemed surreal. I sat on a stonewall while I was waiting for everyone else and just took in the beauty. We wandered through the town and stopped at a store full of crafts made by Iona’s Crafting Guild. There were all sorts of soaps, candles and knitted and crocheted goods – my favorite because I myself knit and crochet! I spent some time finding out about the local crafters and I really enjoyed looking at others’ work and evening purchased a lovely candle as a gift. Even though I’d wished we had more time on Iona my experience there will never be forgotten.
What a glorious day it was! For the third straight day we were given clear blue skies and a bright shining sun. After waking to this wonderful weather cascading over the mountains, gliding along the loch, and streaming through the windows we prepared for a full day of travel to the west coast of Scotland. The drive weaved through verdant glens and past picturesque lochs until we reached Oban. As we stepped off the bus, I was delighted to be absorbed to the crisp salty air of the sea. After a ferry ride to the Island of Mull and from there to Iona on another ferry, I was astounded by the crystal clear water that seemed to glow and ethereal blue. The isle, more like a gallant monument to a bygone era crowned by the Iona Abby. After a successful concert and time enough for a few pictures we were transferred back into the mystic sea amidst brightly painted fishing boats and drifting sailboats. It was good to be back on the coast.
Scotland the Brave! I am writing to you from the ferry to Oban and I wish I could fully describe to you the beauty of the crystal water and the green hills beyond. The best I can do is bring home pictures and postcards, but it would be better to bring you all here to see it for yourselves. The view from the window of my hotel room is equally gorgeous. If you crawled out the window you would reach the Loch in 50 feet and the hills rise behind it right where the sun comes up. I sat there early this morning and read a book next to the water but I couldn’t crawl out of bed early enough to watch the sun rise at 5am. I am determined to do it tomorrow though, even if I just go to sleep again after the sun tops the hills. I have a small anecdote that might amuse you, we are wearing our informal choir attire, because we had a concert at Iona Abby today, which means, maroon shirts khakis that look like the program you can see on the program on this site. As is my fashion, I am wearing a khakis skirt this ferry is so windy that your teeth dry when you smile. I will leave the reminder to your imagination, but it was not as entertaining to me as it was to everyone else on the upper deck. The Britannia that we visited on the first day had safety measures in place to prevent the royal skirts from flying up, but I suppose I am not of a high enough class standing for such treatment.
Traveling is my new passion, I think. I love learning about the differences in culture and to be surrounded by accents and language so different from my own. Here, cookies are called biscuits, French fries are chips, chips are crisps, the sidewalk is called the pavement, and we would never say “dog foul” or have signs declaring the “life jacket donning instructions.” My favorite language quark so far was when our tour guide Nathalie told us to “bulge the queue,” or jump line, to make sure we all made it onto the little ferry. In short, I could stay here forever.
Waking up this morning at the Glencoe Hotel, with the sun streaming over the mountains to the smooth lake was just the beginning of a wonderful day here in Scotland. Once arriving on Iona we were in a bit of a rush to make our deadline for our performance so we scurried by the 1500 year old scenery and into the Abby to perform. The acoustics in the beautiful stone monastery made our voices resonate endlessly. Once the performance was over, we were free to roam about the island and have lunch or tea and take pictures of the ancient buildings and beautiful sea. From the we boarded the ferry and then the coach to slowly make our way back to Glencoe where the pool and sauna await us. Despite the many hours of travel involved with today’s activities we really had a wonderful time of observing and appreciating God’s hand in the glorious landscape in the isles of Scotland. After such a long day, we will all surely sleep well tonight.
When we told our home stay family we were going to Ballachulish and Iona they told us we would be traveling through “God’s land,” named for its breathtaking scenery – they were certainly correct! We had a quick hot breakfast with traditional Scottish favorites such as black pudding and more recognizable Americans treats of muffins and cereal. When arriving in Oban we found a beautiful, culturally exciting town set upon a gorgeous Loch. Overlooking the town were the remnants of a coliseum build when the masons needed work, but it was never finished. The ride to Iona was slightly terrifying and slow going as there was only one road and it was only one lane. However, the scary trip was worth it to reach Iona, the most beautiful stop of our trip in Scotland thus far. We sang a beautiful concert. The acoustics in the Abby were fantastic and each note resonated perfectly! After our concert we learned the history of the Abby and the Isle of Iona. Chrissy and I ate lunch in a little tearoom. We had delicious vegetable soup and bread with raspberry jam. It was then time to leave this charming island. Iona is by far my favorite place on the trip. Each day I think I have seen the most beautiful lands and then I am proven wrong by each preceding visit. I can’t wait for tomorrow…