Thursday, November 09, 2006

Uk vs France episode #3

We're off to Scotland! We're really looking forward to this as its been a long time since either of us have been. We hit the M6 & head North. Its a long way & the roads are crowded, but the weather's good so the driving isn't bad.

Some background is necessary at this point before we arrive. We'll be staying at the Monachyle Mhor Hotel. This was started as a B&B on their sheep farm by our very good friends & neighbors Rob & Jean. It grew from B&B to hotel over the years and to a full restaurant as the quality of Jean's cooking became more widely known. By the time Rob & Jean decided to retire to France their son, Tom had taken over the k
itchen. These days all three children are involved, Tom is the Chef, Dick runs the farm (plus a 'bistro chippery' in Calander) and Melony runs the hotel side (as well as constructing the wine list with Tom.) The hotel has expanded to 18 rooms, all very luxurious. Tom's cooking is getting more & more recognition. For example he was recently one of the 12 UK Chef's competing to cook for the Queen on National TV in the Uk. He's also been written up by the NY Times & other major newspapers. All in all this is serious cooking at a top class hotel. Over the past few years we've come to know all of the children having met them when they've come to visit Rob & Jean. We've had some memorable meals cooked by Tom & his Mom & have even been bold enough to cook for them. (Tom was kind!) So all in all we're looking forward to seeing them at home in Scotland for the first time.

As we head North from Sterling the countryside gets more & more beautiful. We pass Calander & drive along the loch on our left. It starting to get really spectacular now. We turn left & head for Balquhidder, Roy Roy's burial place, after 3-4 miles of 11/2 track road we carry on from Ballquhidder for another 4 miles on single track road to Monachyle Mhor. Driving up this glen is amazingly beautiful. The loch & the hills combine to make this a magical place. We arrive at this wonderful pink hotel set above the loch. It just looks pretty & welcoming even before you've parked your car!

In we go into a very warm welcome. We've met one of the girls at reception before back in France. She shows us to our luxurious room. Its sort of a demi-suite with couch & table flat screen TV coffee making equipment & a separate bedroom with queen sized bed beautifully dressed. Then there's the bathroom which L immediately falls in love with. Just super!
After unpacking we go for a walk up the glen. We're joined by Midnight the hotel's young black lab. She, we're told, goes walking with all guests. Rupert is in love & the dogs have a great time playing & exploring. The scenery continues to amaze.

We go into dinner. Nice table in a cozy nook. Great menu: amuse, entree, soup, plat, cheese then dessert. Tom comes in to greet us. (he's not cooking tonight) We have a good time trading family news, Melany comes in with new baby (only two weeks old), Dick shows up, Jim (Melany's husband) arrives. Then Brendon who is the sous chef, but is doing the cooking tonight pops in. (we've met him in France as well.) We feel so welcome and so much like family. Rarely does the company outshine the food with me, but this is one of those times even though the food is wonderful. Everybody comes & goes, we have a great time & retire to bed well fed & happy.
Next morning we take another walk up the glen & get some really good pictures as the light is good & the mists are dissapating. The dogs have a ball.
Then we're off for a drive that Rob has given us a hand drawn map for; Tom makes some corrections & loans us his mapbook.
Off we go down the glen, past Balquhidder & back to the main road. We drive north to Killian where we take pictures of the waterfalls. Just past we turn & head up another glen & loch; this ones every bit as beautiful as Monachyle. Eventually we start to run out of road, what there is is more pothole than pavement. L's getting worried, so is Rupert, even my faith in Rob's directions is getting shaky. BUT, at the last moment & as promised there is a paved track to the right past the umpteenth cattle grid. We make out way up the mhor & through the sheep & as we do the views get more & more spectacular. As reach the top & admire the panorama we know we're in one of the most beautiful spots in the UK. We go on over & down to the next glen by the loch & eventually back to the road. We stop for a nice simple late lunch at a local hotel.
We're back to the hotel by 4:30 so we can have tea with Melony & the children. We have great time & are amazed at what they have done with what looks like nothing outside, but is really nicely done inside & has a great view across the loch. We have a needed rest & then join Melony, Jim & the baby (3 1/2 weeks old) for dinner. Another nice private nook. Tom's cooking tonight. We have a lime foan martini amuse, seared foie gras entree, a demi-tasse of leek soup, beef filet as the plat, cheese and a selection of desserts. Melony wants to show off her wine list so we have an Australian Chardonnay which is delicious, followed by a Dry Creek Zifandel in my honor followed by a superb Barolo. What a nice meal! Tom keeps popping in & out, Dick shows up again. We have great time & enjoy hearing about all of the plans these three have. What a great family!

We can't help but notice that all of the guests here at Monachyle Mhor are treated like friends; the attitude is wholly professional to the highest standards, yet relaxed & friendly at the same time. If you ever have the opportunity go!!

Next morning we say our goodbyes & are off. Tom gives us presents to take back for Rob & Jean, not to mention a 5 pound bag of the wonerful Italian coffe we've admired at the hotel. A truely memorable experience; We'll definitly be back.

Onto to Yorkshire & Linda's sisters house.

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