We made a wonderful discovery this weekend. It came because a friend encouraged us to look beyond the obvious. I am grateful for his prodding and our serendipitous encounter.
First, a little background. Joshua began competitive fencing about a year and a half before we came to England He fenced in the foil division at our club in the USA. We didn’t want to leave our wonderful club in America. We were pleased to discover an excellent fencing salle here in Durham. Coach Laszlo Jakab and the entire staff of the Durham Fencing Centre have been a great gift. They have coached World and Olympic champions. We may be a few years off from that level of competition, but why not try to learn how? One way the students develop their skills is by competing in Leon Paul Junior Series competitions. This weekend was the Leon Paul Scotland tournament in Linlithgow, Central Scotland.
We were able to ride with some wonderful friends who were also fencing. The drive was just a little too far for us to go up and back for the day. We would have to find a place to stay among the small towns of a somewhat remote part of Scotland. Our first thought was to find an economy hotel nearby. That’s when a parent of another fencer suggested we try a bed and breakfast and/or castle . “You’ll be surprised what you’ll find up that way.” I am thankful for his encouragement to look beyond the notion of needing to stay at the cookie-cutter chain hotel.
I did some looking around online and found the Carriden House. It is a guest house that looks like a castle. With a simple e-mail to the hostess, I learned that we could book a room for less than the economy hotel 5 miles further away! And Carriden was going to give us a full breakfast, which the hotel was not going to offer. How could we refuse?
Under a steady Scottish rain, we traveled to Linlithgow, and followed the long country lane, passed walled gardens, to the estate. The oldest parts of the house date back to 1602. We were able to identify stones in the nearby graveyard to 1417. Our host informed us that archeologists place the eastern end of the Antonine Wall on the rolling hills and woods at our feet. (Antonine Wall c. 14o AD is a lesser-known structure than Hadrian’s Wall which is south of the English/Scottish border.). We could spot the Firth of Forth outside our window. The gardens were immaculate. The hosts were warm and friendly. The drawing room’s cozy corners, bright windows, and fine grand piano made the perfect retreat after our three-hour drive.
Our hosts recommended a family-owned Italian restaurant in the village, barleo. We knew we were in for a treat when, though this was a small town, the immaculate tables in the garlic-infused restaurant were full of smiling patrons. As Yogi Berra is credited as saying, “Nobody goes there anymore. It’s too crowded.”
Our trip, which could have been otherwise an uneventful, routine trip turned out to be quite a treat. It doesn’t cost us anymore; as a matter of fact, we saved money over the cheap-o motel. With a little bit of a sense of adventure, and a little time researching, our trip turned into an educational and memorable experience. I hope I remember this lesson of looking beyond the obvious for answers. Trying something took us off the normal paths. Opening up to new encounters introduced us to new people and places. Accepting the prodding of a friend led to a wonderful, serendipitous encounter.
So what about you? If you are planning a trip or holiday, why not move beyond the obvious choices among the chains and support some local, family owned businesses. Get to know the land and the people. Learn from them and share their stories. You’ll be surprised at what God has to show you.
P.S. How did Joshua do in the tournament? Stay tuned for posts from Joshua later this week to hear.
“ [God,] Be generous with me and I’ll live a full life;
not for a minute will I take my eyes off your road.
Open my eyes so I can see
what you show me of your miracle-wonders.
I’m a stranger in these parts;
give me clear directions.
My soul is starved and hungry, ravenous!—
insatiable for your nourishing commands.”
From Psalm 119