May 24, 2005

Islay's pronounced 'eye-la.' Yes, I learned the hard way.

Well. Haggis, yes. Black pudding, no.

I'm reminded forcibly of weekend trips to Nantucket - I sit on the Motor Vessel Erein Arrain, or Isle of Arran, en route from Kennacraig Ferry terminus on Loch Fyne to Islay, home of so many wondrous potables. It's a two hour and twenty minute trip aboard a car ferry, out to an island off the coast in the Atlantic. Of course, we're going west instead of east.

Due to a shortness of time and piss-poor planning on my part, I'll likely only be able to spend the day on Islay - I was unable to procure a bed, and the last ferry back leaves at 6pm from Port Ellen to Kennacraig (where my car is). I figure I can make it from Kennacraig (departing around 8:40pm) to Glasgow and back to the hospitable flat of the ever-patient Mr. Skinner by around 11pm - in time for an hour or so of WoW and snooze before returning the car to Avis (Glasgow Downtown) on Wednesday. Flight home is Thursday morning.

J recently commented that Americans tend to journey for the destination rather than the trip. I'm about to prove him right in spades - due to the compressed timeframe of this excursion to Scotland in general, as well as to the original purpose. See, I didn't really plan on coming here for a general vacation. I came here to see a show, with Aidan - Alabama 3 were playing in Glasgow on Saturday, May 20th. Given that I'm a madcap A3 fan (and Aidan knows that) he informed me of the fact before he bought tickets, and given that I was a bit cheesed off with sitting in the U.S. in general, I said "Buy me one, sport."

So here I am.

My trip, then, was really a goal-based one. See A3. Several other goals, ancillary ones, layered themselves on top - drink good whisky, naturally. Aidan added one when he called a week before I was to leave and announced he was procuring tickets to Episode III for Friday the 19th, as well - good man. As I packed to go, another fell into place - enjoy a Cuban cigar or two, naturally, in a land outside that particular repression.

It took Aidan's casual mention that Islay was only a hundred miles or so from Glasgow for me to start saying to myself "Hm. Islay. Lagavulin. Ardbeg. Bowmore. Yum. Um, er, can I..."

Well, I can't for long, unfortunately. The Sunday break in the middle of my trip, plus the need to spend Wed. night in Glasgow so as to make my Thursday flight, coupled with my typical lack of foresight, meant...well...that I picked up my rental car Monday afternoon and headed off to a hotel room in Tarbert Loch Fyne Monday evening with no other plan, really. Tarbert Loch Fyne is, as I was told and have verified, 15 minutes shy of the Kennacraig ferry terminal, so I'd at least be able to determine the realism of my goal.

Tour a distillery, sample its wares, and smoke a Cuban cigar on Islay, home of my favorite whisky. Sure, I hope I can see Lagavulin, but they only offer tours by appointment, and until I knew there was a return boat this evening (which I didn't until I showed up at the ferry terminal at 0530 today - for more info on why this is difficult to determine even onsite seed here) I wasn't willing to book a tour. Plus, I don't have a cell phone.


See, I resisted the tug. Walking down Buchanan Street in Glasgow, one is assaulted by all manner of shops offering the latest in personal communications gear. The Link. Carphone Warehouse. T-Mobile's branded shop. They all offer 'pay as you go' phones - one, I verified, for the reasonable price of twenty quid - a Siemens phone which would work on T-Mobile in the USA. It took a bit for me to bring myself up short at the display, there - why the hell was I shopping for a phone? My own communicator is sitting happily on my desk in Cambridge, MA, sucking at the tit of 120 VAC whilst no doubt accumulating a raft of voicemails which I'll answer in my typically tardy fashion. As I mentioned to Aidan, it's really liberating not carrying a phone for a bit.

I have a computer with me, naturally. I have, in fact, played WoW. I have banked via the web. I've surfed. All from Aidan's flat. Outside that comforting bath of 802.11, however, I've been cut right off from the Crystal Wind for the first time in quite a while. It's disturbing, really. I hadn't realized the degree to which public phones had atrophied until I reached Logan airport on the way out of town, remembered I hadn't mailed two envelopes I'd been carrying with me around the office and meaning to drop in the outgoing pile, and thought about calling my officemate. It's $0.50 for a local call. Last time I dropped a coin in a phone it was $0.25. Had to buy a coffee to get change.

So here I am, 15 miles out to sea on a ferry with no comm on me, on the way with no plan other than to try to find a distillery that will allow me to poke my nose in and pay humble homage to the low wines, new spirits, and the barley and perhaps pick up a bottle of old gold before heading back over to the mainland and a small Ford Focus.

I feel quite Scottish. I've got a packet of shortbread biscuits, a can o' Irn Bru, and I've (mistakenly) had black pudding for breakfast. Wooooo. Now to see if I can pull off the decadant trifecta. We saw Episode III in nice leatherette seats with drinks, and sat outside immediately afterward to go over it while I smoked a Cohiba and drank Lagavulin. Ding, a Good Day - New Star Wars, whisky, cigar. Saturday, we saw A3, worshipped at the First Presleyterian Church of Elvis the Divine, U.K. (The Right Reverend D-Wayne Love presiding)...and it was goooooood (despite severe tinnitus lasting around 12 hours). So here's to a distillery tour and a cigar on Islay, and to goal-oriented American vacationing. Hm, there was a young couple here somewhere who were debating the cost of bringing their car over for the day to visit distilleries...I wonder if they'd take on an American hitchhiker who'd be happy to contribute to their car tariff...

Posted by jbz at May 24, 2005 3:17 AM | TrackBack

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