So I (or my groggy, tripping self) got to Stansted airport at 00.25 owing to my flight being at 08.30, and there being limited transportation options from my aunt’s place in Hanwell to the bus pick-up point at Gloucester Place. Some holiday this! Anyway, got there, found an empty row of check-in counters against whom other passengers like me were resting, so I decided to grab one for myself too. Slept on and off for about three hours when a security guard came and told everyone there to get up because it was time for staff to start coming in for duty. Great. Had to spend the remaining five hours roaming around aimlessly, sometimes in and around the check-in counters, others in each on the many cafes at the terminal. Finally got the check-in call around 8am, and completed all formalities in a short while.
Boarded the flight to Glasgow at 8.40, and as soon as the plane started moving out of the bay I realized that I left my 45GBP brand-new jacket, which I had bought the previous day, at the boarding gate! My only jacket for Scotland, waterproof to boot and brand-new on top of that! NOOO!!! But then neither am I Madhavan, nor was this a movie, so feigning a heart attack or other terrible ailments was beyond my sleep-deprived brain. And so I fell asleep. Landed at Glasgow after what seemed like many lifetimes of drifting in and out of consciousness. Despite my lost jacket (sniff, sniff) I managed to stay upbeat about things. I decided to pick-up the same jacket again from another outlet of the same store I had bought it from, in Glasgow. Took my rented car into Glasgow and realized I was hopelessly, terribly lost. No GPS, no map, no sense of direction. Stopping and asking for directions is not quite as simple as it is India, where you can afford to suddenly go left, stop by the roadside and check with anyone walking by. That lead to a torrid 3 hours before I finally somehow stumbled into George square in Glasgow (don’t ask how, I have no clue!), and involved another frantic two hours of trying to find out where I was, running back to the car to get another parking slip for 15 minutes, and repeating the whole thing after another 15 minutes. At this point you might wonder why i didn’t just get a slip for an hour or two right away. Oh, but I did try to, except the parking machine had ideas of its own and it decided to swallow my two 2 pound coins, but give me a single slip for 15 minutes (it’s 60p for 15 minutes of parking, so ideally I should’ve got a slip for 45 minutes). So I said thanks to the machine for shafting me, and went on with my sprints across different parts of the square till some kind soul told me exactly where my shop was (a mere 5 minutes away on foot, as I found out much to my chagrin and relief ). I finally managed to get my jacket after a good two hours of running around like a headless chicken. I thank the almighty that he gave my sleep-deprived brain enough sense to get hold of one really good map of Scotland while I was running around. That helped me get on my way towards Loch Lomond, which was to be my first stop of my Scottish sojourn.
Loch Lomond is about half an hour from Glasgow, and I was headed towards the Scottish Youth Hostel at Loch Lomond (17.75 GBP per night), which was up a small pathway off the A82. The hostel was formerly a castle, and gave me my first flavour of Scottish heritage. The interiors of the castle, oops… hostel, are made of carved wooden roofs and carpeted floors running from edge-to-edge with wooden walls on all sides. There are stained glass windows up the stairway, which lend the building a very old-world charm to the building, and you can’t help but be impressed when you first lay your eyes upon them. The views from the upper floors, where the rooms are, are fantastic, overlooking the Loch and the hills in the distance. The gardens around the hostel are very well maintained, and are a pleasure to behold. In fact, I spent my whole evening taking pictures of and from the garden, never venturing out of the boundaries of the hostel compound. This is going to be a great trip!