If you think of Mull as being shaped like a boot – or more appropriately, an Ugg – Fionnphort would be the big toe. It’s here that you catch a quick ferry to the small island of Iona, where almost 1500 years ago St. Columba was sent into exile following a dispute with St. Finnian over a book. (At least it didn’t involve a woman) Columba went on to become one of the leading figures in the renewal of monasticism and it’s not hard to see why: he was deported from Ireland with just a few mates and sent to an uninhabited spit of rock three miles long by one mile wide. What else was there for a holy man to do except look inward? It seems an especially appropriate place to explore today as I publish my 1,000th blog post.
So long, Oban. At last I’m off to mull things over on Mull, one of the Inner Hebrides. For an island with only 3,0000 full-time residents, however, it warrants aÂ quiteÂ impressive ferry. The journey to the port of CraignureÂ is little over an hour, and on a clear, calmÂ afternoon it’s the most pleasant of boat trips. It’s also a picturesque harbinger of what’s to come.
The train from Glasgow to Oban, where I’ll eventually meet my friends and catch the ferry to Mull, is a two-carriage “dinky” which seems to hug the shore of every loch in its path through the Highlands. If there’s a journey that could be described as lilting, this is it. As mellifluous and rolling as the Scots accent, it’s a pleasantly relaxing two and a half hours. Thankfully Oban is theÂ terminus ofÂ this particular train, leaving me free to nod off with impunity.
Flying in and out of Nevis was so much easier than anticipated – as well as a nice change of pace from my last arrival on the island,Â whichÂ included landing in St. Kitts and taking a ferry acrossÂ theÂ straits. Bonus points to Cape AirÂ forÂ launching the daily non-stop service from San Juan into Vance Armory airport. It meant not having to check out of Four Seasons Resort Nevis until 45Â minutesÂ before take-off. Even better: no linesÂ at the airport. In fact, not only were there no lines but we were the only passengers on the only flight leaving that morning, which lent an air of glamour to the whole experience – as though flying private. A pretty perfect send-off, if you ask me. If I have to leave Nevis – and unfortunately, I do – Â this is the only way to go.
Twice-daily a boat arrives from the St. Kitts “mainland,” ferrying resort guests and provisions to the dock on Pinney’s Beach. Here at Four Seasons Resort Nevis even such quotidianÂ occurrences are treated as cause for celebration. Colorfully-clad locals andÂ theÂ island’s best string band line the gangway in a scene straight out of Fantasy Island.Â As the sounds of jazz and bluegrass build to a crescendo the welcoming party unexpectedly transforms itself into a parade, dancing across beach and into the resort’s lobby. With a welcome like this, who needs Mardi Gras?
I had been told time and time again over the past week – by total strangers even – to avoid a planned side trip to Macao, the formerÂ PortugueseÂ colony which returned to the fold of the Chinese motherland in 1999 as an autonomous Special Administrative Region similar to Hong Kong. Yet hearing it described variously as a hole, a pit, and a cesspool only made the prospect of a visit that much more tantalizing: if Macao was truly a vision out of Dante’s ninth circle, well, I needed to see the spectacle for myself. A speedy ferry from Kowloon or Hong Kong islandÂ made it a no-brainer for a day trip. Plus, the proliferation ofÂ big-timeÂ casinos clustered at the northern end of the peninsula means winners and losers can be shuttled back and forth through the night with all the ease of a taxi. If Macao was really that dreadful I could just up and leave. Well, surprise, despite the gluttonous display of wealth the casino end of town is a pit. Duh. (Was I expecting the Fremont Street experience?) But there’s history here, too, and a European-influenced heritage that I’m determined to see.