• “The smartest historical sci-fi adventure-romance story ever written by a science Ph.D. with a background in scripting 'Scrooge McDuck' comics.”—Salon.com
  • A time-hopping, continent-spanning salmagundi of genres.”
  • “These books have to be word-of-mouth books because they're too weird to describe to anybody.”
    —Jackie Cantor, Diana's first editor


I’m actually a trifle disappointed. I have a nice official-looking card, signed by my surgeon, informing the world that I have a knee replacement, to be presented to the TSA as needed—and I didn’t need it! Apparently my new knee doesn’t contain enough metal (or not the right kind of metal) to set off most metal detectors in airports. Not that this is a ¬_bad_ thing, mind you…I was just all prepared to have sirens go off and then…nada. Quite the let-down!

On the other hand, if you’re going to spend 21 hours (count ‘em, 21! That’s just about One Whole Day _and_ Night!) getting home from Scotland, having been routed from Edinburgh to Paris to Minneapolis to Phoenix, anything that makes the passage through airports even minimally less complicated is welcome.

(I now have a new unfavorite airport. Granted, Charles DeGaulle is not _quite_ as horrible as JFK—where all the worst experiences of my long traveling life have taken place—but only because it’s newer and the people are somewhat more polite (no, really) while doing irrational things (after sending us through _two_ levels of security, including a hand-search of our cabin luggage, they sent us down a ramp to the gate. Only there wasn’t a plane at the end of it; we debouched into the street _outside_ the terminal, where we were obliged to wait fifteen minutes for a bus–whose driver then got LOST on the way to the plane (not kidding; he circled the terminal three times and kept making U-turns, dodging sewage-pumping trucks and construction equipment as we got closer and closer to flight time). It’s fortunate that among the few French things I know how to say is, “C’est mon mari!” (“That’s my husband!”), because otherwise, I would have lost Doug in CDG for sure…)

But we’re HOME, which is wonderful—the dachshunds were ecstatic at our reappearance and went in for exaggerated writhings of welcome, flinging themselves on the floor at my feet and peeing on the floor in demonstration of their delight–and we had an absolutely great time, zipping (in a leisurely fashion) from Edinburgh to Inverness to London to Ireland and back to Edinburgh.

We arrived in Edinburgh during the Fringe Festival, and left it on the first weekend of the regular Edinburgh Festival—both times, staying at The Scotsman, a delightful (if really eccentric—it used to be the office building for “The Scotsman” newspaper, and rather than gut the building, they just sort of…fitted…bedrooms into it, resulting in some truly peculiar rooms) place on the North Bridge, just off the Royal Mile.

Which I mention only because the Royal Mile in Festival time is something to see. There’s a great Scots word for that—“hoaching.” As in, “the place was hoaching with…” In this case, with hundreds of visitors fighting their way up and down the Royal Mile, or sprawling in tiny chairs outside restaurants with ice cream cones and pints of beer, or—like one family we saw, consisting of a father and four small boys—simply sitting on the pavement in a row, legs outstretched among the throng, placidly eating chips and vinegar out of cardboard trugs.

The Edinburgh Festival is a great cultural extravaganza: plays, musical performances, art exhibitions, literary readings, the Military Tattoo… “Fringe” is the Fringe Festival; a period before the regular Festival, featuring everything anybody wants to do and can find a place to do it in. The whole town becomes a warren of numbered “venues” (ranging from regular theaters to disused toilets), and street performers (you don’t see that many mimes and living statues anywhere else, even in Italy) and hawkers of Fringe performance tickets just about out-number the visitors. It’s the sort of experience that people call “colorful,” out of sheer inability to describe it more closely.

Now, I’ve performed myself a couple of times at the Edinburgh Literary Festival (a separately organized bookish part of the Festival season), but had never experienced “Fringe” before. As Doug observed, the people who benefit most economically during Fringe are the printers, who work day and night madly printing handbills, cards, brochures, posters, tickets, etc. for the constantly-changing array of performances—and the people (mostly young girls) who are hired to cruise through the crowds with litter-grabbers, picking all this stuff up off the street.

Naturally, some of what’s going on is great, and a lot of it is…well, it’s entertaining (or at least forces you to look at it, in the manner of traffic accidents). One heck of a lot of energy, though; the Royal Mile zaps and sparks like an electrical conduit, pretty much twenty-four hours a day. (Both Fringe and Festival occupy a lot more space than the Royal Mile, of course—but given limited time and the location of our hotel, we hung out mostly on the Mile and up in New Town.)

We were privileged to be invited to the dress rehearsal of one of the Fringe plays, a musical comedy translated from the Czech original, called “Desire.” Deeply entertaining, though I admit that attending in a mildly intoxicated state (believe me, the whole _town_ is mildly intoxicated during Fringe) probably helped.

Edinburgh wasn’t strictly for fun, though; while there, I met with Mike Gibb and Kevin Walsh, the creative team behind Outlander: The Musical, and we went together to confer with a couple of nice folk at the Scottish Department of Culture, regarding possibilities both for doing the showcase of songs at Tartan Day in New York next April, and for expanding to a full-scale stage production. A lot of encouragement, some useful suggestions—and Mike tells me he’s been sequestered at his hideout in Perthshire for the last two weeks, working feverishly on the complete libretto—can’t wait to see that!

In re knees, though, I will say that hauling up, down, and sideways over the steep terrain of Edinburgh did a lot for my rehab efforts. The next stop in Scotland did even more, that being a castle with a 99-step spiral staircase [g]—and a haunted room at the top. But it’s 4 AM here now, so Castle Stuart is a story for tomorrow!

Tagged as:

18 Responses »

  1. Awesome! It sounds like an amazing time. Glad the knees went through the airports with no problems. :)

  2. It sounds like Scotland was great! I just got back from there as well – I walked the West Highland Way and spent two days in Inverness. Your post makes me want to go to the Edinburgh Fringe, which I just missed.
    The airport sounds like a nightmare, though! I agree with you about JFK being awful, though my least favorite is Chicago O'Hare – I have never had a good experience there, and that's almost always because people have been rude.
    It sounds like it's really nice to be home – I'm glad it sounds like the knees are doing well!

  3. Welcome back, so glad you had a nice trip and your knee did well. :) I must say, I think Heathrow is the Worst Airport Ever, though Charles De Gaulle is certainly maddening. I saw someone trying to take bees through customs the last time I was there. It took ages, but apparently they were allowed through…

  4. Happy you are back sounds like you had so much fun! Can't wait for pictures if you have any.

  5. I had a good laugh with your airport experience. It used to be glamorous to fly some 20 years ago. Not anymore! Here's another good laugh about airports from a co-blogger of mine at My Candid Opinion

    After reading about your experiences in the Festival, a question arises. How do Scottish react when they have an American writer, at center stage, talking about a deep sore spot in their history such as the dissolution of the clans?

  6. Dear Sandra–

    Well…[cough]…the first time I did the Edinburgh Literary Festival, the organizers greeted me with considerable curiosity. They told me they'd put my event in one of the small venues, not having any idea what kind of audience I might get. But that venue sold out, so they moved it to a bigger one…and then a bigger one…and I ended up in the largest tent they had, with an audience of 400 or so. The second time, they started with the big tent. [g]

    (And when I did the Edinburgh Gathering last summer, I did two talks/signings for them. That tent only held 300 at a time–but my husband told me there were another 300 _outside_ the tent who couldn't get it, but waited to have their books signed (I signed pretty much nonstop, all day).)

    To answer your question–for the last couple of centuries, Scots have never had their own history taught in schools; they learn the English version. They're _thrilled_ to have somebody tell it like it was, so to speak–even if it has to be an American. [g]

    I've literally never had a Scot make the slightest objection to my messing about with their history–which is very flattering, I must say.


  7. As a Scot myself I absolutely love Diana's books. I have learned more about Scottish history (amongst English, French and American) than I ever was taught at school. I find it fasinating to learn all the little details that otherwise would never have learned. All in all Diana is so brilliant in my opinion she can do what she liked and I probably wouldn't mind hehe

  8. oh meant to say as well I totally agree about Charles De Gaule Airport – i had the experience of it two years ago…….it is sooooo disorganised and even the locals think that. My friend is from the South of France and she detests it!

  9. Dear Shona–

    Thank you!


  10. Wow! I am already in awe of you Diana in every which way: your personality, your accessiblity to your fans and of course the way that you are able to create the perfect blend of historical research and fiction AND THEN to read Shona's comment… you are truly amazing and a gift to us all.

  11. Wow, and I thought I did a lot of walking at Fergus! *g* Glad to hear the knee is holding up nicely and how great is it to come home to the ecstasy of furbabies? My lab/husky mix just about wriggled right out of his skin to have mom home.


  12. Hey, Diana,
    Castle Stuart? My sister and I stayed there a month ago, on the top floor, up all 99 steps. Caroline ran up all those steps with our two duffel bags in her hands. I can only dream of doing THAT. My knee replacements enjoyed the therapy(!) too, but unlike yours, mine set off all the alarms at the airport – a pain in the babushka. So glad your knees are doing better now and survived all the ups and downs in Edinburgh and I'm delighted that you had a grand old time.

    Love reading your posts and keeping up with your goings-on, not to mention excerpts of your upcoming literary treasures! Thanks a bunch!


  13. Dear Diana,
    As usual another more that interesting account of your travels (how do you do soo much?). Two months ago I've been to Scotland, Edimburgh, the Highlands up to Orkney (what a place!) then London and Paris.Everything was beutifuly fantastic until we got to France, and the worst was the Charles de Gaule airport! totally agree with you.
    We spent a night in Castle Stuart also at the top, had the place for the four of us since there weren't any other guest that day, was wonderful!!
    The trip from Skye to Orkney has a very impressive beauty of it's own.I'll go back for more. The standing stones on Orkney better than Stonehenge.
    Thanks once more for sharing all the very interesting thing you always do, with a perception very different from anybody

  14. Diana:
    We also just returned from Scotland and London and were in Edinburgh for the Fringe Festival and saw the Military Tattoo on its first night. We loved Edinburgh and are ready to go back. I saw Jamie & Claire in every close I looked into along the Royal Mile. We also traveled to Inverness and Glasgow, enjoying Edinburgh & the Highlands the most.
    I now have my husband hooked on your books (he's on Dragonfly in Amber). While in London we had a special access tour of Stonehenge which permits you and a couple dozen other folk to walk amongst the stones for 30 min. We just had to take pics of each other walking out from between stones. :) We, however, stayed in this century.
    BTW, there is a direct Phoenix-London British Airways flight that isn't bad if you're lucky enough to obtain a last minute "upclass" as the Brits call it for World Traveller,giving you more room and I'm guessing better food. Then it's just a short hop from London to Edinburgh.

    Patiently awaiting the next release of anything and in the meantime, doing a re-read of all (currently on Voyager).

  15. Diana,
    We had a wonderful time seeing you during our Outlander tour. It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience for my husband and I. We enjoyed the singing of the potential musical, too. Just my humble suggestion is I hope a deep-voiced baritone could possibly be chosen to do Jaime since Jaime seems to be a man's man so to speak. I did comment to the other members of our group that Jaimes is tone-deaf, but we all just laughed.
    Hope your knee is doing well.
    Lana from the outlander tour.

  16. So after 17 years of reading [and re-reading of course *g*] I never would have believed that I will actually be going to the Lake District and Scotland in a few weeks and with my red [now mixed with gray] haired husband …. ok he is short, but he's got it where it counts! *g* {I can't believe I just wrote that!! So, I am madly re-reading looking for place names, and am thinking this would be a fun topic to include in the next Companion volume. Suggested places like the 'arch of Ashness Bridge on Watendlath Tarn [Voyager chapter 14 Helwater, Sept. 1756, does it really exist? I am going to find out soon !!! Thanks for the tips on the Scotsman Hotel and the Castle Stuart with it's 99 steps. I am hoping my knees won't whine!
    Any other tips are most appreciated.

  17. Hi Diana – I so loved hearing about Castle Stuart and your experience there!! My sister-in-law's family (named Stuarts, of course) own and run Castle Stuart and have spent most of their lives renovating and doing all they can to maintain the wonderful Scottish flavour of the castle!!!! It's definitely been a lifetime work of love for them!! So nice to hear you've been there and enjoyed it – and that your knee managed the steps!!!!!
    I also just wanted to mention how much we have loved your books, and just can't wait for the next!!!!!! Thank you so much, for the adventure!!!!

  18. Hi Diana. My friend and I just returned from Scotland. Of course the trip was planned because we simply had to visit all of the places we came to love through reading your books. We stayed in Edinburgh during the Fringe Festival, attended the Tattoo (I even took home my own personal tattoo in the form of a thistle and celtic knot on my right hip) and met a few of the men who will perform in next years show!!! We took a shine to one particular fellow from the Netherlands who we named Fergus (after a while he actually started answering to this)! LOL We toured Inverness and stopped at Fort William on our way up to the Highlands. Trip of a lifetime!!! Loved Edinburgh so much, in fact, we are planning to return this winter for Hogmanay. Cheers!!!

Leave a Response

Please note: comment moderation is enabled and may delay your comment. There is no need to resubmit your comment.