I am an unashamed tourist lover.
After my stint in France, I seem to have attuned myself to the continental aura: that definitely-not-British spirit that emanates from more ‘exotic’ individuals. I’m lucky that my workplace welcomes the occasional ‘foreigner’, whether brought there by their Scottish friends or just travelling the west coast. I literally fall over myself to talk to them. I love discovering their stories.
This has backfired on occasion. Not too long ago, I was at the till and a lady who ‘sounded European’ (that narrows it down – not!) handed me her credit card. Her accent twanged; I jumped channels and borders and asked if she was French.
‘I’m Austrian,’ she replied. I then had to explain about my year abroad to prove that I wasn’t a crazed francophile. Luckily she didn’t seem to mind.
Last week though, I had quite an interesting experience. I walked along to work, a few kilometres along a main road and down the country lane towards the shop and tearoom. About a hundred metres from the entrance, two motorcyclists were parked up, looking confusedly across the fields. I had my iPod stuck in my ears and shouted, ‘Morning!’ As I kept walking, I heard the hum of voices through my music and turned around, dislodging my earphones.
One of them looked at me through rounded lenses. ‘Do you know where there is a place we can get coffee near here?’
I turned comically and pointed towards where I was walking, a few steps away. ‘Um, it’s literally right there!’ I laughed. ‘I work there. It’s a tearoom. So I’ll see you in a second!’
The two guys entered a few minutes later, bikes parked up. My boss, a very friendly lady, wandered towards them and began gesturing at a large map of Scotland on the wall. She called me over. ‘Laura, give these men advice on where to go next! They’re here for five days!’ I couldn’t contain my enthusiasm and grabbed a pen and paper (well, a roll of sticky address labels).
The two bikers, from the Netherlands, had stayed south of Glasgow for a night and were heading to the Highlands. They told me they’d planned to see Aberdeen and Inverness, before getting the ferry home again from Newcastle. I started scribbling on the labels. North to Crianlarich, then Tyndrum, turn right and head through the mountains of Glen Coe, go up to Arisaig to see some amazing beaches and the ‘Harry Potter’ Glenfinnan Viaduct… I made a huge deal of Eilean Donan Castle. ‘You have to go here,’ I said. ‘It’s a must. Otherwise…’ I made a beheading movement with my hand. They nodded. We Googled it. It seemed a set deal.
A few days later, I received an email from them. The panorama below was attached (and what an amazing photo it is!)
I think that’s proof that being able to talk for Britain isn’t all bad…
Where’s your favourite spot in Scotland? What place would you recommend to visitors?