I felt a tingle of anticipation at the prospect of a day on my own exploring the nooks and crannies of St. Andrews. Located on Scotland’s’ east coast, the borough is famous for the invention of golf. I gave my husband one last wave as he took off for 18 holes at a nearby course. His idea of paradise.
Setting out from the quaint Cameron Inn, I headed toward the town center in search of my morning cup of tea and writing time, before beginning my day's adventure of browsing through old bookstores, rambling around the ruins of a castle perched on the edge of the sea, and exploring the ancient cemetery next to what was left of the town’s historic cathedral. Reading old head stones are a wonderful source for both story ideas and character names. As a fiction writer inspiration presents itself in the most interesting times and places. With so much to see, I would need a couple of scones and maybe a shortbread cookie dipped in caramel. Dieting has no place on vacation; I need to fortify myself.
The heavy downpour had ended at dawn, revealing slate gray clouds and swirling mist rising from the ground. The day cleared with a periwinkle sky and rays of warm sunshine streaming down over rooftops. With a few stops along my way to peer into an enticing store window or two, 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), and mouth-watering aroma’s wafting out to the street, calling my name.
Stepping inside, I grabbed a table by the window overlooking the cobblestone street, by placing my journal on the wooden tabletop. I followed the heavenly aroma of fresh baked breads to the queue and ordered a pot of Earl Grey and two delectable, fresh-out-of-the-oven, homemade cranberry scones. I nodded yes to a generous dollop 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 leaving. After all, I rationalized, Steve deserved some energizing sweets after his exerting day of golf.
I’d just opened my journal when a petite woman with flaming red hair tied into a single thick braid hanging over her shoulder, approached me with a friendly smile and asked if she could take a couple of chairs.
“Sure,” I nodded. “Help yourself.”
She dragged away the chairs to her table a few windows down and I went back to my journal. Within moments, however, the red-haired woman with the musical brogue was back.
“Would you care to join us?” she asked.
I looked over at four friendly ladies whom were all waving for me to come over.
“Sure,” I replied again and packed up my stuff.
“My name is Ellie,” she said as she picked up my pot of tea and dish of scones.
I pulled up a chair and took a seat. Names flew at me as introductions went around the table. There was Rebecca (moved to St. Andrews from Edinburgh), Georgia, (a transplant from a small village in Greece) Rose, (along with Ellie, a native of St. Andrews) and the last was quiet Emily, (visiting from the village of Nairn, a town outside of Inverness.
Conversation flowed as if we’d known each other all our lives. We talked about where I was from and what brought me to Scotland: golf for my husband, I explained, and researching for a novel for me.
“What’s your story about?” shy Emily asked.
When I told them it’s a historical romance set in the early fourteenth century Northwest Highlands. They all began to howl with laughter.
“So, you’re one of them,” Ellie chuckled.
“One of whom?”
“One of those hopeless romantics responsible for the ever-growing fantasy portrayal of Scotsmen and their invincible swords.”
“I have to say,” Rose piped up. “I’ve never met a man like those set in your romance novels. I’ve looked and looked.”
“What is it with 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 know this perfect knight in shining armor you all love to create in your stories never existed?” Emily laughed.
“Yeah,” I nodded, “but we romantics, need to keep the hope alive.”
“And give our guys something to shoot for?” Rose smiled
“That too,” I giggled.
From romance novels and their dashing heroes, the conversation went to real life husbands, boyfriends, children, work, the care 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 they your partner is irritating the spit out of you. We all agreed a good rescue is often best accomplished by the damsel versus the knight. Lastly, it was unanimous that if women ruled the world, there would be significantly fewer wars and less violence, as we would be able to settle most problems with a good chat over a well-brewed cup of tea.
At the end of an almost two hour non-stop gabfest and an invite from Ellie to join her family later for dinner, we split up and went our separate ways. I knew with certainty I had made four new friends and discovered how a half a world away, women’s concerns and gripes are ultimately the same. More importantly, I came away with yet another confirmation that travel opens one’s heart and mind to receive the most unexpected, but often best of life’s gifts