European friends…

It was just about a year ago that we were on holiday on Lake Como, in Italy. Sad to say the weather was worse there than it had been in Scotland, and the hotel and food left a little to be desired. Luckily it was a secondary holiday, so we were happy to make the best of it.

There was a wide range of nationalities represented, as you can imagine, and I always enjoy speaking a foreign language. The difficulty arises when you catch short snatches of what is obviously not English, but are unable to identify it. I once had a long chat in German with a gentleman at the Mozartblick viewpoint in Austria, and only when we asked each other where we lived did I discover that he came from London, and of course I was from the west of Scotland! Red faces and laughter were evident in equal measure!

And so it was at Lake Como. Staring out at the rain, I sensed a Germanic conversation drifting towards me from a couple. I was in the midst of commenting on the weather in German, but was informed that ‘We are not Germans’ in German, and then repeated in an undistinguishable lingo. It turned out they were from the Netherlands, and from such a rather unfortunate start, we grew to be regular conversationalists in English which they both spoke very well!

Over the relatively-few days when our holidays overlapped, we found a bond developing, and since they had never been in Scotland, they were invited to come to our house to see some of the best of our wonderful country. Such offers and acceptances are easily made, and just as easily allowed to lapse. But we felt there was something in this one, and exchanges of Christmas cards, and the arrival of a Dutch-English Dictionary, seemed to weld the friendship together, and eventually dates and provisional plan were agreed.

It was probably at this time that a few minor thoughts crossed the minds of both families…..we didn’t know each other well, would they like our food, could they manage English for a solid eight days?, what if it rained all the time? would they be comfortable staying in someone else’s house? what about their political views?, could I learn a few words of Dutch? We were also having a large party at our house at the same time, for Son’s 40th birthday, so how would they manage in a large crowd?

Suffice to say that all went perfectly. From the meeting at the airport we felt we were in the presence of lovely friendly people, who settled well into our house, and seemed comfortable to be with. The weather was unbelievable, and trips to Aberfoyle,the Trossachs, Dunoon, Inveraray, Glencoe, Loch Lomond, Glasgow, St Andrews, and Crail went well. Unfortunately there are so many great places to be seen that they could only visit a few. The eventual parting was accompanied by a number of tear-stained faces, and many hugs!

We have seen how two different cultures can get along so well in the intimate spaces of a house and car, such that even possible disagreements in culture or politics do not have to prevent people from being part of a friendly human race. We are now saving our Euros so that we can make a return trip, but I must try to get my tongue round some of their very strange-sounding words..because they’re not German, you know!

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B********y weather

Over the last lot of weeks we have had reasonably open weather, and I have been at the office.

Then the one week when I have planned to go to beautiful St Fillans, in the middle of Perthshire, Edinburgh, and then to Kirkcudbright in the South west of Scotland……it snows!

Now if only I were a ten-year-old with a sleigh!

Now, that’s eating!

Daughter celebrated a rather important birthday yesterday, so as a family we all went out for a meal last night.

It was in a lovely town in Perthshire called Auchterarder (quite difficult for non-Scots to say!…..think of it as Och..terr…arr…dur…). It was at one time, on the main road from Dunblane to Perth, but now is by-passed. It was a good example of ‘ribbon-development’ where houses and shops were strung along both sides of the lovely wide road for over a mile.

In some ways it is a rather un-remarkable town (it does have the snooker player Stephen Hendry as an inhabitant!). But there is a wealth of lovely shops, as it is really the market town for the area, and they are well-worth seeing.

However, a few years ago, we were up seeing Daughter there and I suggested she look for a nice eaterie. She knew that we liked Italian food (but not excluding food from anywhere else!) and discovered Cafe Cento. For those with a classical background (or even a bit of common sense) Cento means 100, in Italian, and the address is at 100 High Street….so it is really easy for me to remember the name and the address at the same time!

The couple who run it are obvious very enthusiastic about it and it deserves to be well used as the food, ambiance and the service are second to none. (Which reminds me, I must give Gordon Ramsay a phone to tell him he has some stiff competition up there)

So if you are heading north and see the sign for Auchterarder, take the time to have a nice evening meal at Cento……honest I have no shares there….would just wish them the best of luck!….Buon Appetito…….

What a Picture!

The header picture above just shows what a beautiful country Scotland is. It was one of a series of photos taken in an early Spring morning from our room in the Green Park Hotel in Pitlochry. I was intrigued by the movement of the cloud across the hills and this one showed the effect of the reflection off Loch Faskally…fabulous!