An OUTLANDER-related adventure (Part 1)

I just returned from a week-long Road Scholar trip to Montreat, NC, in the mountains of western North Carolina, about 70 miles east of where Fraser's Ridge is supposed to be located. I attended a program about the Scots-Irish, their history and culture, and their migration to the Southern Appalachian region of western North Carolina. (It's not QUITE the same as Jamie and Claire's journey, but plenty close enough!) 

The program description is HERE if you're interested.

I've attended a few of the Road Scholar "Adventures Online" programs via Zoom in recent months, but this was my first experience going on one of their in-person trips. I had a wonderful time, and I consider it a big success, my first time doing a multi-day trip like that completely on my own, without a family member available to help. Everything worked beautifully and I'm so glad I decided to go!

Part 1: Sunday and Monday, May 29-30:

I arrived in Montreat around 4:15 pm on Sunday, May 29, after an uneventful drive of about 225 miles from my home in Raleigh, NC.

The hotel, called the Assembly Inn, is an older building, built into the side of the mountain, so you enter the main lobby in the basement. After I got settled into the room, it was time for dinner, which was served (buffet style) at 5:30 pm. I didn't see any trays, so I asked for one, and after that there was always a stack of trays provided at the entrance to the dining hall.

Food was OK, with different options every day. Limited choices but vegetarian options were always available. After I got my food, I asked the woman who brought me the tray to help me find some other people in my Road Scholar group. That was a great way to meet new people! I met a couple from California, maybe 10 years older than me, very friendly. I started to relax. Maybe this business of being a solo traveler wouldn't be as nervewracking as I thought.

After dinner it was time to go to the Convocation Hall on the first floor, a big open space where we had all of our classes during the week. In order to get there, I used a little key to operate electric lifts (similar to the ones I used to use in college from time to time) in multiple locations.

It was complicated, but eventually I got the hang of it. Here's how I would get from my room to the Convocation Hall:

Step 1: Take elevator from my room on 2nd floor to 1st floor
Step 2: Take lift up about 7 steps to 1st floor corridor.
Step 3: Go down a long corridor and take lift at the end of the hall down 7 steps.
Step 4: Go around the corner and take another lift down 5 steps, ending up just outside the entrance to the Convocation Hall.

So it's complicated, but doable. There were sometimes traffic jams at the lifts, with me and one other person using scooters, at least two more with walkers, and a lift that was barely big enough to fit one person at a time. I learned to allow plenty of time to get to class on time! Fortunately my electric scooter lives up to the reputation on its license plate, SPEEDY 1. <g> A friend of mine gave me that as a present a few years ago.

The Sunday evening orientation was one of the few times the whole group of Road Scholar participants got together. There were 3 different Road Scholar programs going on simultaneously: Yoga, Gardening, and our program, which was called "The Legacy of the Scots-Irish: Historic Migration to Cultural Inspiration". Our group was the largest, about 30 people.

After the orientation, they split us up into small groups to get to know one another a bit, which was a good idea. The name tags, which we wore all week, helped a great deal.

On Monday morning, after breakfast I wandered out onto the big balcony adjacent to the dining hall (pictured above) to get a look at the view of the mountains.

There I met a woman from Virginia, and we chatted for a while over tea and coffee. I was amazed at how easy it was to talk to people. My shyness evaporated at that point, and I began to relax. You can see from the selfie below that I was feeling excited and so relieved -- everything was going exactly as I hoped!

Soon it was time for the first lecture of the day. (Back to the lift. Up to the long 1st floor corridor. Down another lift. Around the corner, down yet another lift, and into the classroom.) The daily routine consisted of two lecture sessions in the morning with a 30 minute break in between, followed by lunch around 12-12:30, and another two sessions with a 15 minute break in between in the afternoon, ending around 5pm. Then dinner at 5:30, followed by some sort of evening program from around 7-8 pm.

The two main instructors, Anne and Righton, were really excellent, very knowledgeable about the subject matter and able to answer just about any question. The lectures over the course of the week were divided into three main areas: "Scots-Irish Migration to America", "Scots-Irish influence on America", and "Scots-Irish in the Southern Appalachians." (When I say this program was a chance to indulge my fascination with All Things Scottish, I am not kidding! <g>)

They started off with a lecture on the history of the Celts, which I found very interesting. (I saw a documentary series on the Celts on TV last year, so I was familiar with some of this.) The second morning session was all about the early history of Scotland and Ireland. I learned about St. Patrick, also St. Columba, who brought Christianity to Scotland in the 6th century. All of this was new to me, and interesting. (Now I'm wondering if Colum MacKenzie's name derives from Columba?)

Lunch was good, both the food and the conversation, and I met more people, including a 90-year-old woman who has done at least 45 Road Scholar trips! After lunch I discovered that the lift going down to the classroom was broken. This lift turned out to be very finicky, and it broke down several times during the week. So I just left the scooter at the top of the steps and walked down. It was fixed by the time I came out for the mid-afternoon break.

The first afternoon session was all about the rise of Christianity in Scotland, up to the beginnings of Presbyterianism in the 16th century. Why the emphasis on Presbyterians? Because the "Scots-Irish" (lowlanders who settled in Northern Ireland before coming to America in the 18th century) are predominantly Protestant, with the Catholics living in the Highlands and the western isles of Scotland. This program was heavily focused on the Scots-Irish, but they did spend some time on Highland culture a bit later in the week.

For the second afternoon session, they had a guest lecturer. Unfortunately, this session was very poorly presented. Essentially it was just a slide presentation covering the same 1000 years of Scottish history that we had just been through that day (so it was repetitive and boring) but instead of a live lecture, a computerized voice read each slide aloud, sometimes mispronouncing words. It was sufficiently annoying that by the time the presentation finally ended, there were only four of us left in the audience. I stayed mostly because I have an interest in Scottish history <cough> and I was curious if I would learn anything new.

The most interesting fact I learned was that the Celts may have spread as far as Galicia in present-day Ukraine, the same area where my maternal grandfather was from. From Wikipedia:

Connection with Celtic peoples supposedly explains the relation of the name "Galicia" to many similar place names found across Europe and Asia Minor, such as ancient Gallia or Gaul (modern France, Belgium, and northern Italy), Galatia (in Asia Minor), the Iberian Peninsula's Galicia, and Romanian Galați.

Whether that's true or not, I find it fascinating. Galicia, Gaul, Gaelic -- they're all from the same root. Could that be where my red hair comes from? <g> My ancestry is Eastern European Jewish on both sides. No Scottish blood anywhere that I'm aware of. Given that Jews didn't intermarry with Gentiles, it does seem unlikely, but the idea intrigues me, that maybe there is some Celtic ancestry in my distant past.

We had some good conversation over dinner that day. I felt relaxed, and happy to be making friends. It was easy to meet people, far easier than I thought it would be, and that boosted my confidence. In the evening they had a concert of mountain music (guitars and banjo) which was very nice. I haven't heard that type of music in a long time.

(Continued in Part 2 and Part 3 and Part 4)


Sarah Brown said...

I’ve done 7 Road Scholar programs as a single and have enjoyed every one! Always meet great people from all over the country.

Anonymous said...

Great post. Scottish, readeded Presbyterian here. Your comments and study closely follow my family history to the U S. Wish I could have been there! 80 and ALS……..won’t happen. Looking forward to part 2. J

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