Today started in a hurry when the hotel’s fire alarm system went off twice. The first time we all became a little worried, but we were all very impressed by how quickly the fire department responded. We also had a good laugh when we realized that our historian, Alonda, had brought her camera outside with her. Unfortunately, many mistook the fire alarm as their clock and hit the snooze button. Luckily, the alarm was false, so we were able to go back to bed. Once the second alarm went off, most people decided to stay up. It may not have been the best way to wake up in the morning, but it did give me time to finish the book I was reading.
The Scots-American Musical Journey has definitely been an adventure full of many exciting “firsts” for me. Before this trip, I had never flown on an airplane (not to mention left the country). And today, I had my first train ride! Our group rode from Aviemore to a “photo stop” in Broomhill and back again. Despite the dreary, rainy weather, I enjoyed the old-fashioned station and the compartments that made me feel as if I was in the movie “White Christmas” (except it was raining, not snowing). The best part was getting to talk to the conductor, and going to the engine to see how the train works (the whistle is extremely loud from there!).
After returning to the Aviemore Station, the choir gave an impromptu performance for the train staff and the passengers. (They specifically requested to hear our Scottish pieces). Being part of a spontaneous mini-concert was fun, but the train ride gave me hiccups, which continually interrupted my singing! I am keeping my train ticket as a souvenir of my very first train ride and, although, I am having an exciting time, I am looking forward to coming home and sharing my many pictures and highlights of this adventure with family and friends. But until then, this “small town girl” is enjoying her journey in Scotland!
Moments of Song
After getting off the train, we (the choir) congregated in an open space in the train station. At first we didn’t have much of an audience, but as we began to sing people gathered around us with smiling faces, pulling out cameras and some were even moved to tears. For me, this somewhat surprise performance turned out to be one of the most fun, yet relaxing and I got to enjoy the music with a very appreciative audience, which played a large part in my favoritism. It brought me joy that we could bring these people joy. A woman passing by with her son hushed him and pointed towards us and her son looked up at us as if he was enchanted with our song. The train conductor watched us with beaming happiness, and the people in the train watched us through their windows. Once we were through with singing, the train conductor thanked me and told me that having us sing reminded him of when he was in choir so long ago…
Today the beautiful lochs and golden hills of the highlands gave way to the most mountainous region of the British Isles. The Cairngorm Mountains were made the second of Scotland’s National Parks in 2002, and though the overcast, drizzly weather did not provide for idea viewing, the regions majesty was still evident even blanketed in its misty veil. The train ride and walk through Aviemore were nonetheless breathtaking and seeing such an amazing protected environment made me wish that I could go for a hike. The rest of the trip will be spent in the city center of Edinburgh, but I have seen enough beautiful landscapes in the highlands of Scotland to keep me inspired for years to come.
Our visit to the Blair castle was an experience in Scottish grandeur. From the moment we walked through the doors, the immense display of guns and swords impressed intimidation and reverence upon the visitor. Further exploration revealed halls lined with endless stag skulls, and this theme of hunting would continue throughout the mansion.
When most people think of castles their minds gravitate to the medieval time periods, but this castle has been in operation for nearly 800 years, so the castle is in fact a picture of Georgian excellence. The various halls revealed masterfully composed bedrooms and wonderfully adorned tapestries. The two most awe-inspiring rooms were by far the Grand Ballroom and the Dining Hall, but the many other rooms of the castle were all certainly up to par.
Blair Castle is by far the most impressive historical experience that I have had while in Scotland. Nothing else has really stuck in my mind quite as well. Sure the castle of Stirling and the vast depths of Loch Ness were great experiences but the sheer magnitude and detail of Blair Castle makes it a must-see for any Scotland adventurer.
Today we drove a lot. Right now we are in traffic moving close to 5mph. It’s been like this for a while now. I’m getting a bit hungry and considering how long we’ve been in traffic, I don’t know if we’ll be in Edinburgh on time. I’m starting to wonder if we’re going to get to eat dinner at the University. This is the only day we didn’t have a concert so quite a bit of it has been spent on the bus. I’m starting to get a little homesick and love and miss all the people at home. I’ve talked to a lot of other people who feel the same way. However, it will be a nice change of scenery to get to Edinburgh. Everyone is getting more and more restless. I think we are just tired of sitting on the bus. Actually, I’m certain we just can’t wait to get to Edinburgh.
When we finally arrived two hours late, we settled down to a lovely dinner and were showed to our dorms. We were given key cards that are needed to access any door or elevator in the dorms. It took us some time to figure that out. The dorms we are taking residence in are all on the second floor. Some of us are ready for bed, while others are heading into town to shop. The dorms are very nice and clean with two twin-sized beds in each room. We are settling in for the night on this beautiful campus. The internet and phone services are pretty inexpensive compared to previous locations. Internet access is a pound for every 15 minutes, so we’ll keep you posted.