We call it the Wedding March. For eight days Chris and I would hike the Scottish Highlands and the Isle of Skye before tying the knot in the Orkney Islands. Of course everyone thought we were crazy, which is probably why we decided to do it. After all, who takes a long and arduous journey on the way to their own wedding? And how exactly does one pack for such a trip—particularly the bride? Hiking boots and tulle are a terrible mix.
Let’s just say that if Chris was putting me through some kind of test (he said everything had to fit into a carry-on so we wouldn’t risk lost luggage), then I passed it with a rainbow flag. “In that case, we’ll just have to ship my trousseau,” I said. I expected him to balk, but it turned out he was thinking the same thing, only because his Bonnie Prince Charlie groom ensemble, which included a custom-made kilt in Highland Granite tartan and thirty-four other thingamajigs, was going to take up at least as much space as my big fat gown and super-bling high heels.
After a particularly heated and absurd spat over just exactly how to pack our oversized, overpriced FedEx box, we taped the whole thing up and took it down to our local shipping facility. About an hour later, we emerged dazed and confused with a receipt for an amount that could have easily paid a messenger to deliver the thing in person.
For nearly a month, I would do nothing but worry night and day about whether the contents of this box had arrived safely—and whether I would, without the help of a scale, fit into my gown at call time. Sure, I’d burn a lot of calories tramping around for eight days, but would it be enough to offset two weeks in Eataly?
Then a flash of brilliance struck me: If I drank no more than one glass of wine a day, I could seriously cut calories without even trying. The last time we were in Italy, which was for six weeks, I drank like a fish and came home looking like a bloated mackerel. Who knew wine hid so many calories in such a small amount? Not that I ever stopped at a small amount. Why have one glass when many more will do? We were, after all, in one of the most romantic wine countries in the world.
Now none of that mattered. The only thing that mattered was that my zipper zip—all the way—on our wedding day. “Don’t worry so much about it,” Chris said. “You can use safety pins if you have to.” Right. Over my dead body was I going to MacGyver a dress that had required three separate fittings. I would starve, sober, first. Which turned out to be tougher in Scotland than in Italy.
In the land of la dolce vita, a quarto (250 ml) of wine comes in a carafe at an enoteca, making it simple to ration a generous one-glass portion into three servings. Perfetto. In Glasgow? Forget it. First of all, a delectable red wine in a Scottish pub doesn’t exist. And asking for one makes you look like a nutter. It’s not a fine-wine-sipping kind of country. A person needs something sturdy to shoo away the gray, the cold, and the wet. Every which way I looked I saw ads inviting the public to a comforting nip. Guinness was “Good for You,” while Glenfiddich promised that “One Day You Will.” Will what? Recover?
Folks talked about going to the pub for a wee dram or a pint as if they were just going to have the one, but I never saw anyone stop at that number. Bloated, pasty, and hollow-eyed, my fellow tipplers filled sidewalks, barstools, and park benches from the Style Mile all the way to our hotel. Most of them looked like the living dead, at least until they’d had a few snootfuls; then they turned shiny, red, and loud.
Apparently I wasn’t the first to notice a fatal attraction between Scots and their booze (not that we’re doing any better in the States, myself included). In some drinking establishments notices on tables, and posters on bathroom stalls, reminded us that “If you can read between the lines, you can save lives” and “Choose life.”
Maybe the government had connected the dots between overeager alcohol consumption and the laundry list of social problems that go with it, but from the looks of things, the average bloke and blokette hadn’t bothered. Or if they had, they were fine to forget about it with another frothy pint. Moderation, it seemed, was strictly for the daft.
Truth told, Glasgow was depressing the hell out of me. After two nights, I was itching for the Scotland I’d seen on Monarch of the Glen DVDs for the past eight months: misty, green, and magical, with handsome lairds careening around in Range Rovers. Bye-bye urban grime, hello Highlands!
But first we had to get some rest, which was anything but forthcoming on a Friday night downtown. The street below our hotel window heaved with payday revelers, upchuckers, and a particularly shrill woman desperate to find Tom, TOM, TOMMMMM! While Chris attempted to shower in a cubby-sized bathroom, I stuffed my ears with neon-colored silicone, pulled the “100% authentic Highland wool” blanket over my head, and wished hard for Tom to show the hell up, fast.
“Please let tomorrow be a better day,” I implored the Universe. Maybe it was one too many wee drams, or just exhaustion, but I thought I heard a voice say, “Aye, lass, it’s gaein be awricht ance the pain has gane awa’.”