I felt a tingle of anticipation rising within me at the prospect of a day on my own exploring the nooks and crannies of St. Andrews , a former royal burgh on the east coast of Scotland, known as the locale where golf was invented. I gave my husband one last wave as he took off for 18 holes at Kingsbarns, a nearby golf course and his idea of a day in paradise.
Setting out from out from the Cameron Inn, I headed out toward the center of St. Andrews a mere couple of blocks away in search of my morning cup of tea and some journal writing time before I decided whether to begin my days adventure with a long browse through the old bookstore I’d spotted on our walk the night before, a leisurely ramble about the ruins of the castle perched on the edge of the sea or to explore the ancient cemetery laid out next to what was left of the town’s ancient cathedral. (reading old head stones are a wonderful source for story ideas and character names.) So many choices! I would definitely need a couple of scones, maybe a shortbread cookie dipped in caramel. (Dieting has no place on vacation; at least this is what I tell myself.)
The heavy downpour of the night before had ended shortly after dawn with a clearing of slate gray clouds and a matching swirling mist rising from the ground to reveal a clear periwinkle blue sky and rays of warm brilliant sunshine streaming down over rooftops. With a few stops along my way to peer into an enticing store window or two and over random stone walls of houses set in between the shops to admire the wild tangle of cottage gardens beyond, I soon spotted Rowan’s coffee shop with its array of mismatched tables and chairs set out on the sidewalk, large glass windows, (perfect for people watching) not to mention the mouth-watering aroma’s wafting out to the street calling my name.
Stepping inside I snared a table right beside one of the windows overlooking the cobblestone street. Leaving my journal on the wooden tabletop, I followed the heavenly aroma of freshly baked breads and took a place in the growing queue to order a large pot of Earl Grey and two delectable-looking, just-out-of-the-oven, homemade cranberry scones. I nodded yes to two generous dollops of homemade strawberry jam and clotted cream. (What’s a warm scone without fresh clotted cream?) I resisted the urge to ask for a couple of shortbread cookies, deciding I’d order a small, okay a large take-away bag before heading out. After all, I rationalized; I should bring Steve some energizing sweets after his exerting day of golf.
I’d just opened my journal when I petite woman with flaming red hair tied into a single thick braid hanging over her shoulder and a friendly smile approached, asking if she could take a couple of chairs.
“Sure,” I nodded.
As she dragged off the two chairs to a table a few windows down I went back to my journal and people-watching. Within a few moments the red-haired woman with the lilting brogue was back.
“Would you care to join us?” she asked.
I looked over at four equally friendly-looking women whom were all waving and gesturing for me to come over.
“Sure,” I replied again and began to pack up my stuff.
“My name is Ellie,” she said as she picked up my pot of tea and dish of scones
Within moments of pulling up my chair and taking a seat, names flew at me as introductions went around the table. There was Rebecca (moved to St. Andrews from Edinburgh, three years before), Georgiana, (a transplant from a small village north of Athens, Greece) Rose, (along with Ellie, a native of St. Andrews) and the last was quiet Emily. (Visiting Rose from the village of Nairn, a town just outside of Inverness) She was very excited that I’d been to Nairn on a previous trip to Scotland and thought her hometown beautiful.
Conversation flowed as if I’d known these women all my life. We talked first about where I was from in the US and what brought me to Scotland. Golf for my husband, I explained and research for a novel for me I replied, before asking about their lives, their work. They were all intrigued when they discovered I lived a mere fifteen-minute drive from Salem, Massachusetts. I’ve come to learn that the lore of Salem witches reaches far and wide the world over.
“What’s your story about?” shy Emily asked.
When I told them a historical romance set in early fourteenth century northern Scotland. They all began to howl with laughter.
“So you’re one of them,” Ellie, choked out.
“What?” I asked. “One of whom?”
“One of those hopeless romantics responsible for the ever-growing fantasy portrayal of Scottish men and their invincible swords.”
“I have to say,” Rose piped up. “I’ve never met a one like those set in your romance novels, although, I’ve looked and looked.”
“What is it with the American women and men in kilts, swords and castles?” Ellie asked?
“It’s the men in kilts,” I laughed. “The swords and castles part is the icing on the cake.”
“You do know this perfect knight in shining armor you all love to create in your stories never really existed?”
“Yeah, I nodded, but us romantics, need to keep the hope alive.”
“And give our guys something to shoot for?”
“That too,” I chuckled.
From romance novels and their dashing heroes the conversation went to real life husbands, boyfriends, children, work, the care and loss of elderly parents, food, and all the problems daily life never fails to throw at us. We found we had more in common than not and discovered we were all in agreement on several matters.
First and foremost: chocolate should be included in the food pyramid for healthy eating. Second: the keys to a successful (romantic) relationship–with love being a given—are unconditional trust, a sense of humor, great sex and good girlfriends who get you through the times when you are irritating the spit out of each other. Lastly, it was unanimous that if women ruled the world, there would be significantly less wars and violence, as we would be able to settle most problems with a good chat over a cup of tea.
At the end of an almost two hour non-stop gabfest and an invite from Ellie for my husband and me to join her family later for dinner, we split up and went our separate ways. I knew with certainty I had not only made four new friends, I had discovered how a half a world away, women’s concerns and gripes are ultimately the same. More importantly, I came away from that table with yet another confirmation that travel opens one’s heart and mind to receive the most unexpected, but often best, of life’s gifts.
Bobbi Lerman is a writer of historical romance, memoir and travel essay and founder of www.scribblersink.com, an online prompt writing community.
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