The day my life was changed was the day I first laid eyes on the most magnificent piece of architecture I have ever seen. For me, being in such a glorious place inspired me more than words can describe. I felt as though I was in a dream; like the experience I was honored with, was something out of the books I would read, full of tall tales that test the boundaries of the imagination and transport you to a majestic land where you truly feel like the storybook hero, on an adventure of a lifetime to change the world. How could something so fantastic happen to me in my nearly ordinary life?
I stepped out of the car and felt the crisp breeze that swept off the lake and nipped my face. As I crossed the driveway, my feet crunched the white pebbles while I drug my suitcase toward the entrance. The moment was unreal to me, I was in utter disbelief until I finally zapped back into the distinct reality that this was, indeed, happening to me, I was, indeed, standing in front of Aldourie Castle, on Loch Ness, in Scotland!
The castle was grand, the first thing I saw as I passed through the doorway, abandoning my suitcase, was the hard wood floor. It was caramel colored and smooth looking with the natural groove of the wood visible under the sheen that the light reflected. I was captivated by the gloriously high ceilings and golden chandeliers that lit up the room and the rose colored walls. I noticed that the gold framed artwork hung from the ceiling by gold chains. The chains were attached to a gold pipe that skirted the entire room, right under the ceiling. Some paintings hung by two chains attached to the bottom of the painting above it; it was common to see two or more paintings hung from one another. Each was always a tasteful and unique masterpiece, which added to the luxurious nature of the 18th century castle.
My shoes clicked and echoed as I strolled into the grand room. There was a large fireplace curtained by a soft, tan, marble mantelpiece. In my elation of the moment, I called out to my mother who was sharing the experience with me.
“Mom!” I exclaimed, “Isn’t this amazing?” her blue eyes were wide with the same excitement that lit up her face. Her voice echoed off the white, decoratively plastered ceiling and carried through the vastly spacious room
“This is really cool!” she said. My mom had long, curly, thick, brown hair with few grey streaks the sun occasionally caught. The curls bounced when she walked and brushed across her back when she looked up at the ceiling. She was five, feet two inches and her long-sleeved plaid over shirt was tied around the waist of her blue denim jeans. The sides of it dangled at her knees. She carried a large Canon camera around her neck which she bought specifically for the trip. We were both so excited to be there for my good friend Amber’s wedding.
As I circled the room I was immediately taken by the sight of a baby grand piano to the right of a patio door. I strode over to it and placed my fingers over the smooth unknown white keys; they were cold to the touch. Although I knew they were new to me, I felt as though nothing in this place could be foreign; it was as though the castle was my home, and I had only been away for sixteen years. I began to play a special song that I had taught myself years before. It was an elegant piece that kindled the moment, and deepened the already warm welcoming feeling I had. The music was soft and mesmerizing, it swept me up as the sound of each key, perfectly tuned, rang aloud in the open room. Suddenly, my focus was broken and the tune cut short as I was ushered away from the piano to prepare for the rehearsal of the wedding.
I quickly gathered my things and a host of the castle led my mother and I through the doorway to the right of the mantel fireplace. There we were immediately met with a spiral staircase. The cold, grey, concrete steps looked massive but were only about five feet in width. Naturally, instead of holding the rope railing for the stairs as the others did, I went up on the narrowest part of the stairs dragging my suitcase along with me. I wanted to see how close I could make it before I could no longer walk there. With one hand, I held the base of the spiraling concrete and inched my way up, ducking from the flight above me and catching glimpses of the outside view from the little windows that lined the wall. When we reached the second floor we turned down a long carpet lined corridor that led to our room. The carpet was a vibrant red pattern which was apparently the theme of the hallway, because the ceiling high curtains were also red tartan. The carpet was soft under my feet after just walking up the hard concrete steps.
When we got to our room I rushed to get ready with barely enough time to look around. There was a white stone fireplace mantelpiece and a four post queen size bed. I rushed to the door on the opposite side of the room and opened it to see a huge shared bathroom, with yellow painted walls with black and white pictures painted on them, in the same chain like fashion of those in the main hall. There was a clawfoot tub with two separate faucets for hot and cold water. There was a black and white marble countertop with two sinks. In the corner, there was a toilet with a pull chain flushing mechanism attached to the high tank about six feet up the wall. At that point, I was very late for the rehearsal I was supposed to be present in. I went back downstairs, to tend my responsibilities, but I was sad to leave the castle unexplored.
My first initial reaction to the castle was denial crossed with fascination. I could not fathom the idea that I was actually in a castle in Scotland! It was everything I expected it to be and more. It was a luxury I had never experienced, it was romantic and antique, yet modern and captivating. Returning to my reality seemed absurd after a taste of that life. Normal life was so ordinary compared to the experience I had just had, and I was not ready for it. The events of the two weeks I spent there were life changing for me, and they are ones I will likely never forget. The day I had to leave, I did not want to. The weather felt extra bitter that day, likewise, my heart felt bitter for having to leave. It was only a few days before my sixteenth birthday in September, and I was dreading the day of our departure. I remember watching out of the window of the car as we slowly drove away, refusing to break eye contact for fear it would be our last look. The castle sat warmly lit against the afternoon overcast grey sky, and as we turned the corner of the driveway, I will always remember it for how beautiful it looked in that moment. The image rests permanently in my mind to serve me as a steady reminder that one day I will return.