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Oaklands Bed & Breakfast, © Penny Fattori

June 30 – Deep in the Heart of Scotland
Oaklands Bed & Breakfast – Laurieston, Scotland

Oaklands Bed and Breakfast is a fine turn-of-the-century manor house set back from the road, atop a mound covered with trees and shrubs. Robin has barely shut the engine off before she's out the door and rushing to greet Penny, who has noted our arrival and is on her way down the drive.

I can tell that arriving at Oaklands is like coming home to Robin and understand right away her fondness for Penny. Her warmth and congeniality are genuine as she welcomes us into her home. And what a home it is.

The decor is Edwardian, complete with stained glass lamps and windows; it's plush, with almost a museum feel to it, yet still cozy enough that I'm not afraid to touch things. I'm amused by the granite curling stone doorstops. I remember reading about the sport of curling on a Scottish message board years ago - but the only thing I can remember is that it has been played in the Highlands for well over a century and that it's something like team shuffleboard on ice. Penny welcomes us into her kitchen, which is recently remodeled with stained glass fronted cabinets. It's beautiful.

We have only an hour to get settled in and cleaned up before Rena, Martin and "Big Bad" Jim arrive to lead us to the restaurant where we will be dining, so we head up the stairs and set about doing so. Early mornings, busy days and late nights are taking their toll on me. I'd be happy to grab a quick sandwich in a pub, but our plans are made. I splash cold water on my face in an attempt to defy the fatigue that is fighting to overtake me.

Looking into the mirror, I admit to myself that most likely a lot of the way I'm feeling is the prospect of going out for a meal with three strangers. This is a daunting proposition for me – being expected to make small talk over dinner with people I've never met and I'm suddenly filled with more than a little trepidation. Dana appears behind me – wow. She looks elegant dressed all in black with a good amount of sparkling gold jewelry. Before I have time to worry about whether or not I'm dressed appropriately Penny announces that we have guests. I'm glad to see that Robin is still wearing jeans as I am.

Greetings and handshakes all around and we're off with "Big Bad" Jim riding shotgun and Robin driving her little heart out, keeping up with native-driver Martin on the motorway, as we head west into Stirlingshire.

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