Have we missed any transportation mode today? Oh, yes…train, but we will do that one tomorrow! We rose early at 7:00 to spend a last hour in the peace and quiet walking around Iona. It was brisk, and the wind had picked up considerably – glad we were not going on the small boat to Staffa today, because the water was choppy, too. Of course, when we ran into Capt. David, he said “Aw, this is nothing!”  Iona was so refreshing, and so peaceful. It was nice to feel that tranquility, and to have no real agenda. Even though we were filming, it was a respite from the “real world.” Yes, time truly has stood still there.

We had breakfast and finished packing, while Nikolas took the bike Captain David had loaned her, and rode to the Bay at the Back of the Ocean where we went yesterday. She had set her mind on taking a swim! Yes, even in the 50 degree water!! She was determined, and when she sets her mind to something, it happens. So she did! She lasted a whole minute, but she can say she did it, which is more than we can say! Our feet were in so much achy pain after only 30 seconds in those waters! We made sure to be out at the dock for our 10:10 ferry at 9:45 – because that is when the Captain leaves each morning for his Staffa trip, and we wanted to say a final farewell, and also to get a picture with him. What a great fellow!  As we set out across the water towards Mull, we were filled with a sort of sadness at having to leave such a unique and special place. I really would love to take my family there one day. It is truly almost surreal – like another world.

Ahead of us unfolded the “Mull Motorway” once again! This time there was quite a bit more traffic – delivery trucks and such crossing the island  after the weekend break. It was quite a bit more….thrilling. I will leave it at that! We did get to see a whole field of highland cows, which was a treat. We would not let Nikolas go out and make friends with them, though, as she had yesterday. The huge highland cow horns would keep anyone at a distance! The mountain tops of Mull were shrouded in thick clouds, and the lochs looked a deep blue.  We got to Craignure with enough time to spare for a real Italian coffee, then boarded the big ferry with our car. Right behind us pulled a tractor-trailer full of….COWS! Noticing a theme here.  They were all mooing their heads off, and the echo was quite something.

We realized that on our crossing to Mull on Saturday, we forgot to get a photo with Captain Michael MacNeil, Ian and the crew. So we asked the steward if we could please go back up to the bridge for a picture and to say hello. The captain met us in the corridor and escorted us back up. So gracious. After our “photo shoot,” Ian led us back via the quarters for the crew. He told us how they actually live on the ferry!! Literally…live on the ferry. I had no idea! They work 2 weeks on, 2 weeks off, and when they are on, they stay on the boat. There were bedrooms, laundry facilities, a mess hall, and everything.  It was fascinating.

When we docked in Oban, the SatNav decided to have a freak out moment – went totally blank. AHH!! On our last little journey by car to Glasgow, too! Ian had already given us some general idea of how to get there best, by avoiding Inveraray, but we really needed Joyce. Finally, after removing the chip, and turning her off and on a couple of times, she recovered, and we were on our way to Glasgow to catch our flight to London. The drive was pretty winding – especially on the first part along Loch Lomond. We decided that the Scottish roads seems much easier to drive on than the English roads. They seem wider (except for on Mull, of course) and do not have hedgerows or rock walls obstructing your view ahead. It was really a piece of cake for Courtney to drive in Scotland…compared to some of the places she drove in the last 2 weeks in England (i.e “The Struggle” outside Ambleside and some of the roads in the Yorkshire Dales).

With a sadness in our hearts, we had to say good-bye to our faithful companion, our car, Mr. Bingley – the third “star” of the show! We have not mentioned that he is a black Toledo, manual transmission powerhouse!!! Courtney said it handled so well…the steering, breaks, and acceleration were all amazing.  She loved driving this car. It was much more “sturdy” feeling than the itsy-bitsy Peugeot we had last year. Next time, we will definitely ask for this car. So, we were back to just “Two Moms” again….

The Glasgow airport was a breeze to navigate. No waiting at the check-in or at the security check. Very pleasant people, as we have found all over Scotland. Our flight was packed, but very uneventful. Not even any turbulence! Woohoo!! We landed in London at about 7:30, and decided to just buy a quick bite to eat on the underground ride into the city. M & S Simply Food is a chain found in most airports, large train stations, and in town. You can get a nice offering of fresh pre-prepared foods, from sandwiches to salads to pastas. It is reasonably priced and always good. This is a great option for a train ride or a picnic. We had an hour’s ride to Green Park station on the Tube, so we enjoyed our basil-tomato chicken pasta salad and flapjacks en route to the city.

There are several options for getting to the city center from Heathrow, but the cheapest way is to go via Underground. The Piccadilly line runs from Heathrow into the city, and costs about 5 pounds one way. The Heathrow Express would have cost us 20 pounds each. That way is quicker, and at peak times of the day, probably less crowded. But since we were not in a big hurry,and it was an off-peak time, we opted for the Piccadilly Line. We had searched online for a London Underground map to find which stations have elevators to street level…no way did we want to haul all the luggage up stairs in the subway! On the website, there are wheelchair symbols indicating which stations have lifts. Green Park is very central and only 2 minutes by cab to our hotel. When we came up to street level, we hailed a cab, and were at the Sofitel St. James in no time. When we first came up out of the Underground, we both noticed it…the “city smell.” You would think that after Iona, we would not be glad for that. But there is something exhilarating about being in the city!! Excitement…yes, we do love London!

What a treat to be staying at the Sofitel St. James. We checked in, and the staff went out of their way to help us in any way possible. We already felt pampered, and that was just at check-in! Our room is beautifully appointed, and the attention to detail here makes it very elegant, yet practical. We are  only a 2-minute walk from Piccadilly Circus…the lights from there head right down our street. Can’t wait to get over there tomorrow! Trafalgar Square is also a very quick walk, so we are very centrally located.

Tomorrow we are treating ourselves to pedicures in the Spa, since our feet have trod miles and miles these last two weeks, up and down spiral castle stairways, along Medieval ramparts, through livestock pastures, and in icy blue waters. Yes, these feet deserve some TLC. After being treated like queens, we are headed to Windsor to visit the town and the castle…pretty appropriate, non?

Enjoying the journey in the lights of Piccadilly…

Heather and Courtney