Tag Archive for: haggis

Travel: A Path to World Peace

By Barbara Plum aka AB Plum

“Travel is fatal to
prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness …”  (Innocents Abroad)

On the other hand, there’s no
place like home.

After a summer of living in
Denmark, with side trips to Iceland, Scotland, Finland, and Estonia, I boarded
what I hoped was my last airplane for a while on August 31. We stood in line to
clear security at Kastrup, and I wondered if any other country besides our
Scandinavian haven had withstood such an onslaught of tourists.

Despite the hordes—and my
being patted down at the airport—the multitudes and I proceeded to our flights
without incident. Standing in front of Customs, I felt a frisson of tension.
(We learned before departing the US that Iceland is part of the Schengen Area).

So? You might ask.

Schengen Agreement … 

This Agreement allows people
and goods to cross 26 EU borders without visas or other kinds of border controls.
US citizens can remain in the entire area
a total of 90 days within a 180-day period. Pretty straight forward. (My husband traveled on his Danish passport and so avoided the “rules).

Yes, but …

I knew about the restrictions
before leaving the US on May 27 for Iceland. Iceland is part of the Schengen
Agreement. Six days there before going to Denmark meant I would exceed the 90-day allotment. I called
the Danish Consulate near my home in late April and got the reassurance that I could go to
any police station in Denmark and receive an extension of my 90 days.

Once upon a time, yes. In June 2019 …
I had to go to Danish Immigration with a long form filled out by my husband’s
lawyer-cousin. The clerks who handled my request warned us I would very likely have
my request rejected. (About a hundred people—Mid-Eastern women, mostly, with
small kids and babies—queued up to other lines to submit their papers). I never
learned the outcome of their petitions, but I realized my extension mattered
nothing compared to immigrants seeking asylum.

Ever optimistic about my own
case, I thought playing the “family” card would over-ride
bureaucracy. Family is a very big deal in Denmark. My husband’s family had
planned a major reunion for us and dozens of cousins on August 25. Our adult kids
were coming from the US to take part in the festivities. Et cetera. Et cetera. Etc.

Nothing personal … and no narrow-mindedness …
just the rules …

In less than a week, we received
the official word, delivered by Priority Mail. I had to leave on the 24th
or risk a hefty fine and exclusion from the EU for an unspecified time if I
violated the rules.
A trip to the American
Embassy resulted in no hope. Naively, I assumed someone in the US Embassy would
take up my case. Denmark, I learned, now has some of the strictest immigration
policies in Europe. And no, I could expect no help from US personnel.

A loophole …

A light shone at the end of
the tunnel though. One loophole existed. I could leave Denmark for 6 days (the
number by which I would exceed my stay) and then return to Denmark, giving me a
total of 90 days in the country.

But … but … where could I go?

The UK or Croatia. Or, of
course, back to the States. Choices, choices.
Brexit mania was all over the
European news in mid-July. Did I really want to go to London under those

After five minutes of
discussion about cheaper airfares, shorter flights, and another visit to
Croatia, my husband and I chose Scotland for our sojourn. I’d always wanted to
tip-toe through the heather—if I could visit during a rain-free period.


Raindrops keep dancin’ on my head …

Sunshine shone on us every
day except for our bus trip to Stirling to visit the castle. Since we’d enjoyed
perfect weather at Edinburgh Castle, we didn’t complain. Dozens of Scotsmen
told us how lucky we were not to have to resort to rain-gear, and we agreed.

Our six days in Edinburg flew
by. We missed the heatwave that hit the week after we left, and we returned to
Copenhagen almost glad for the need to make the side trip.

And yes, we tried haggis—almost
edible with a couple of cold local beers.

Our trips to Finland and
Estonia, planned before our imposed trip to Scotland, proved uneventful. Great
weather. Manageable crowds. Quiet and relaxing.

Heading home …

By the last week of August, despite
an amazing summer, we were ready to go home on the 31st.  An eleven-hour flight lay ahead of us so we
decided to check for lounge availability and pay for a more quiet place to
relax before takeoff. Pay, because Norwegian Air no longer provided free lounge
entrance for Premium passengers. If we upgraded to Premium-Plus status, then we
could stay for the 2-hour wait time for free. Another thousand dollars seemed
excessive …

As we checked with the desk
attendant regarding available space, she told us the charge would be $40
each.  We hesitated. Then, a young woman
behind us, offered to make us her guests. Surprised, but quite happy, we
accepted. We thanked her and discovered she’d grown up in Silicon Valley. She
now lives in Boston, but the world is a small place.

We settled in with coffee and
comfy chairs and marveled at our good luck. “Travel [really] is fatal to
prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness.”

How about you. Do your travel
experiences support Twain’s statement?
When not traveling the world,
Barbara Plum and her alter ego, AB Plum, live in Silicon Valley. Her latest
romantic comedy, Crazy Daze and a Knight
is available FREE through Thursday. 

Fàilte (or Welcome as they say in Scottish Gaelic)

I’ve just returned from the land of Highland Coos – those adorable shaggy cows that look like over-sized Shih Tzus. My husband and I spent a week visiting our daughter who is spending the semester at the University of Glasgow. Don’t ask me what time it is — my internal time clock is on the fritz.

My husband is a Scottish history junkie. So for days we wandered from Cathedral to battlefield to castle ruins, he examining old relics, me sipping tea and holding an informal scone contest (which the café at St. Mungo Museum of Religious Life and Art won hands down).

Our first stop was Rosslyn Chapel, a small fifteenth century exquisite stone church, every single inch of which is covered with ornate and detailed carvings. You probably recognize the name because it’s the site of the big reveal in Dan Brown’s thriller, The Da Vinci Code. With the publication of the book in 2003, visits mushroomed from 30,000 per year to 30,000 in a single month! By the way, talk about the power of the Internet for research – our guide told us that until they filmed the movie, Dan Brown had never actually visited Rosslyn Chapel. As a mystery writer, I was more intrigued by the whodunit our guide shared. One of the stone carvings, completed in the early 1400s, was of maize. Keep in mind that new world corn was unknown in Europe at that time, was not cultivated on the continent until several hundred years later – and Christopher Columbus had yet to sail the ocean blue! Hmmm.

My personal favorite was Paisley Abbey, built in the twelfth century, with magnificent stained glass windows. While my husband was studying the role this old abbey played in Scottish history, I was enthralled by the romantic story our guide told. Marjorie, daughter of Robert the Bruce (think Braveheart with Mel Gibson), married Walter Steward, a local nobleman. Pregnant, she was on her way to the abbey when her horse stumbled and she was thrown. The monks desperately tried to save her, but alas she died. In a twist worthy of the best of the tearjerkers, her son survived to become Robert II, the first of the Stewarts (later to become “Stuarts”) who ruled Scotland until 1689.

I found great ideas for mysteries everywhere I went (does this mean I can deduct the trip as research?). We spent an afternoon at Scone Palace (which incidentally had only mediocre scones in their teashop). This is the crowning site of Scottish kings. I loved the ornate rooms and the absolutely phenomenal collection of porcelain which dominates the bookshelves of the wood-paneled library. The owners, who still reside at the palace, made the pragmatic decision that visitors would be more interested in looking at their huge collection of china than at old books. As an author, I feel honor-bound to protest. But the unsolved mystery, which perhaps could be the storyline of the next Sullivan Investigations book, is what happened to the Stone of Destiny? Also known at the Stone of Scotland, upon which the Kings of Scotland were coronated, it was stolen by the British in the 13th century and held in Westminster Abbey until Queen Elizabeth II returned it to Scotland in 1996. Sounds good except that the stone now residing in Holyrood Chapel in Edinburgh isn’t the original, according to experts who have studied its composition. So what really happened to the Stone of Destiny? Did the Scots, knowing the British were close, hide the Stone? If so, where? What happens in a whodunit when all the major players have been dead for more than eight centuries?

Sadly, even the best of vacations have to end – otherwise, what would you be vacationing from? Hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving, full of cheer, love, and good food (haggis, nothwithstanding).

Slàinte (or bottoms up as we say here in the colonies!),

Evelyn David