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Impressions of Scotland

I'm near the end of my fifth day in the Scottish Highlands. I can tell already I'll miss being here when I'm gone.

Everyone I've met -- not just my wonderful hosts, Richard and Gill, but their friends and acquaintances as well -- has been kind and gracious. If all Scotland is this welcoming, it's even more extraordinary than I know.

Scottish Pasture

I can't get over how completely, how inescapably, how finally green it is here. It's greener than the Puget Sound area of Washington, or the Lower Mainland of British Columbia, and those are green places to be sure. I mentioned to Richard and Gill the apocryphal story about Eskimos having 23 (or 42, or more) words for snow, and said that perhaps Scots should have 23 words for different shades of green.

Loch Voil

The loch beside which Richard and Gill live, Loch Voil, is small but utterly fits with my vision of a Scottish loch -- narrow (less than 500 meters at its widest) and long (about 6 kilometers), steep hills on either side, with just enough room for small sheep farms along the slopes.

The roads here remind me of those in the Dordogne: narrow and twisting, and people drive them fast. They're great fun when in Richard's BMW station wagon or Gill's Golf, but I wouldn't want to think about driving a lumbering SUV, much less a tractor-trailer along them -- and yet the roads are packed with such vehicles.

The food here is good, even very good. Richard and Gill's favorite pub down the road, The Munro Inn -- equipped with free computers, a library, and HDTV -- does a good steak sandwich and chips, I have to say. In Killin, at The Falls of Dochart Inn, I had an outstanding meal of oatmeal-crusted salmon in Drambuie sauce, with sticky toffee pudding for dessert. (If only they had let us take our food in the pub area, with the fireplace roaring behind us, rather than in the less-atmospheric dining room -- but that's picking nits.)

I can't imagine a better introduction to a place than to be welcomed by natives who warmly open their doors to a visitor, introducing him to their friends and neighbors, showing off their country to him with pride, and patiently answering his every question, no matter how inane it might sound. I'm incredibly fortunate to have this time here.

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