One Week (x3) Later

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September 21st 2011
Published: September 21st 2011
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Three Weeks In

The water-guard spray for Gortex shoes does not work. Two wet adventures, two very wet shoes. Plus they reek of brine.

Three weeks into my European voyage, I have made my way to the northernmost point of Great Britain: the Shetland Islands. The trip here has been fun and riddled with adventures. That is code for "Oh my God, help me."

London was fine. There was some drizzle, some jet lag, some loneliness, but overall it was an entertaining and educational six days. I loved Windsor Castle, the British Museum, the Museum of London, and the National Gallery in Trafalgar Square. I loved my tea and scones, for which I paid dearly (Tourist Lesson #1: Never pay more than £5 for a piece of bread and cup of bitter water). I loved walking in the parks.

London was fine, but nothing more. It is a large, industrial city and does not fit with the quiet, refined image usually associated with England. Oxford was a much better match. There, I enjoyed tracing the footsteps of C.S. Lewis, a favorite author and former student of Oxford, Magdalen College. Tourist Lesson #2: The British think they speak English, but in fact theirs is only a shorthand subtype where half of the letters are dropped; for instance, Magdalen is pronounced "Maudlen" and Alnwick is pronounced "Annic."

York was a joy, too. I must return there when I'm rich to go shopping. Of course it had a fascinating history, partly retold in a fantastic Viking museum, and a lovely garden with the ruins of an abbey, but most of all I will remember the quaint little shops clustered on narrow and crooked streets.

And then.

Oh, and then!

Dear Hurricane Katia, I hate you. Love, Anna.

Here's why: Hurricane Katia sent vicious winds blasting across the UK. When I say "vicious," I mean power lines and a train knocked over. A wise woman would have been paying attention to the weather, foreseen the potential danger, and tucked herself safely away in a cozy hostel. Unfortunately, I am not a wise woman. I wanted to go hiking.

Did the 20- to 30-mph winds catch me on Hadrian's Wall? Yes they did. Did they whip away the words of the tourguide at Alnwick so I couldn't understand a word he was saying? Yes they did. Did they catch me racing the tide across the causeway to the mainland from the Holy Island of Lindisfarne? Yes they did. Did they earn the curse of 1000 terrible deaths? No they didn't; they earned 2000.

To add insult to injury, it was also at Hadrian's Wall and Lindisfarne that my shoes got so wet and stinky. Rain and oceans mean water, and that water went straight into my supposedly waterproof shoes.

Someday I will find it somewhere in my heart to forgive Hurricane Katia, but not until I've relaxed at the ruins of Melrose Abbey a few more times. Ah, Melrose. If you ever have a headache and can take a break from work, go to Melrose, Scotland. The scenery, including a gentle river-walk, was beautiful and calming. It relaxed and strengthened me for the rest of my second country, Scotland.

First, Edinburgh (pronounced "Edinburra"), where I took a two-hour crash course in Scottish history. Kenneth mac Alpin, David I, Sir William Wallace, Robert the Bruce--never mind that I didn't learn those names in school; I know them now. Trivia: Did you know that Scotland got its flag from its patron saint, St. Andrew? Pop quiz: What is the Scottish flag? (Answer: a white X-shaped cross (a saltire) on a blue field.)

Second, Stirling Castle. Third, via Aberdeen, the Shetland Islands.

Thank you for your prayers. God has been hearing you, because in spite of my disasters, I have made it here alive and well. Please keep praying.

It's rainy and windy now, and I intend to use that as an excuse to take the day off from my European voyage and watch some TV. Dear Scotland, thank you for providing a lovely view from the lounge window.



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