More (late) recapping of my Holiday adventures:
The Scotland-Dusseldorf adventure started with the very simple, sweet idea of going home with one of my Scottish friends for a few days mid-December, have a fake family Christmas with her, and head back to France after the weekend.
And then a snowstorm hit Northern Europe and the UK. I heard a variety of reports on its extremity, ranging from the worst in a few years, to a decade, to a few decades. Whatever the record it set, the snowstorm stranded me in Scotland for another few days with my friend’s incredibly gracious and understanding family.
It was fantastic being in a home again. Wandering around in a bathrobe with a mug of coffee, watching bad sitcoms on TV, eating meals around the dinner table. It honestly made me feel as if I was back in college, and I had just gone home with one of my friends for the weekend. Only, instead of going to a different city, I flew to a different…country. An absolutely lovely weekend, full of meeting friends and family, taking the dogs for walks, overly enjoying being in Starbucks land again (I missed big mugs of coffee. Don’t judge.), and baking. My friend’s parents even put together a traditional Christmas dinner for me to experience, complete with holiday crackers (just like in Harry Potter!).
Though I spent most of my time hanging out with my friend’s family and friends in a variety of towns and cities between Edinburgh and Glasgow, tagging along for coffee dates and last-minute Christmas shopping days, or driving through the snow-covered castle-studded Scottish countryside, we did visit Edinburgh for a day-trip. It was weird revisiting the city that I found so hard to leave almost two years ago, and even more bizarre to visit it without my college travelling buddy. Blankets of snow and Christmas lights covered the vivid green that I so often associated with Scotland in my memories. The garden trees, nestled under the castle, were bare and glittering with ice. A Christmas Market was set across the street from the shops that I frequented. Even the bagpipers were different, wearing extra layers. Everything had changed, but it was just as beautiful.
That night, I went to the theatre to witness another Scottish Christmas tradition: the Pantomime, an inexplicably hilarious production. Part musical, drag-show, comedy sketch, slapstick routine, political and pop-culture commentary and satire, with a plot vaguely based on a classic fairy tale, driven by audience participation, and brought to a close with a theatre-wide dance party, the Pantomime is a hodgepodge of culture and tradition, mixing the new with the old. Fantastic.
The time eventually came for me to leave Scotland and return to France. While the weather had cleared up on the British side of the channel, continental Europe was still having some snow issues. About thirty minutes after we should have landed in the Brussels Charleroi airport, a jumbled announcement crackled out over the intercom, explaining that the Charleroi airport was closed, and that the plane would have to make a slight detour to a nearby airport. Key words: slight and nearby. The stewardesses assured us, before ushering us off of the plane, that we were about one or two hours away from Brussels, and that a bus would be arranged to take us all to “where we needed to be.” It was only then that I noticed that all of the airport signs and announcements were in German and that I started to feel a bit nervous.
Turns out that we had landed in Dusseldorf, Germany, a six hour trip from Brussels. My reaction? To laugh darkly to myself, before wandering off to find the person who was supposedly arranging transportation. That, of course, turned out to be a bluff. The incredibly un-helpful personnel at the information desk first told us that a bus would not be coming, and that it would be a good idea to take a taxi to Belgium, or to book a hotel for the night. After inquiring further about finding a taxi, we discovered that no taxi drivers would be willing to drive us to Brussels, let alone to the Dusseldorf city center in the middle of the night, and, additionally, under the current extreme weather conditions. Legitimate sentiments.
As the night progressed, we learned that a bus was, in fact, coming, and that we were just waiting on a driver courageous enough to brave the blizzard. As the hours trickled by, we passengers began to form small circles around the arrival gates, checking emails, sleeping, munching on surprisingly delicious airport sandwiches, sipping Scottish whisky, and sharing travelling horror stories in a mixture of French and English. Early in the morning, the buses arrived, and we started the long trek across the German countryside to Belgium. I tried to stay awake, wanting to see as much of the beautiful, dark landscape as I could. Country cottages, dark evergreens, drifts of snow, smoke billowing out of stone chimneys. We finally made it back to Brussels, and from there, I hitched a ride with my new Scottish friend back to Lille. On the way, we blasted REM and Mumford and Sons, drinking Belgian chocolate milk and nibbling at sandwiches, as another gray dawn broke over the French countryside.
Tune in next time for: Strasbourg and Paris.