Visiting the U.K. – Part 13WARNING: This is going to be a LONG post. I think this series has been dragging on a bit too long and I want to try to wrap things up.
So, continuing from where I left off:
It’s currently half after seven in the morning and I’m on a train to Edinburgh, Waverly Station, in order to meet up with *Charlie and see the sites.
[This photo of me says: "Hi! I'm on a train. It's so early to me that I'd almost consider this a late bedtime on most weekends, plus it's ridiculously cold, so I'm still kind of grumpy and trying to wake up."
I'm soooo not a morning person. At all. So the fact that I cracked a semi-smile is kind of really an amazing thing.]
*Charlie is a wonderful online friend of mine who happened to be in Edinburgh on business at the same time I was there. This marked the second time we’d ever met – though we’ve been friends since we were both 12 years old.
Unfortunately, it looks as if it will be rainy and drizzly for the rest of the day. It’s only March, and still very cold here, and yet the fields are remarkably green! I feel I should be listening to something Celtic on my iPod as I travel across the Scottish countryside, but here I’m happily listening to So Nyeo Shi Dae. I’m an American in Scotland listening to Korean music. Am I a conundrum?
For those of you who don’t know me well, I love languages. I took 3 years of Spanish in High School (most of which I’ve forgotten by now, sadly.) I then minored in Japanese in college (I still remember quite a lot of this!) And I’m studying Korean now for fun. As a result, I have a very diverse set of music I like to listen to: Celtic songs in traditional Gaelic, Korean and Japanese Pop, American Music, Broadway Musicals, Instrumentals/Classical, and even a wide array of video game music: Nobuo Uematsu and the Final Fantasy Music FOR THE WIN!
Oh, the conundrum just got worse. Now I’m an American in Scotland listening to Koreans singing a Irish song in English. It’s so amusing to me.
So, back on track… (And I’m on a train – HA!)
This will be the second time ever for me to meet Charlie in person, after knowing each other now for something like 13 years. He’s one of the oldest friends I have that I still talk to. Here we’re both American but we have to come all the way to Scotland to meet again – also amusing to me.
I just looked out the window at the Springfield stop and I can’t tell if that is just fat rain or snow falling. It looks suspiciously like snow though…lucky me. [ ]
And it was snow, clearly. It was a cold, wet, slushy day. And despite the lousy weather, we still managed to have fun! You have to really set your mind to it on a day like that, but you can’t let something as trivial as weather ruin your day when it’s the second time EVER to see one of your best friends. (The internet generation is such an odd thing to think about sometimes…)
Okay so, back to the journal:
Yesterday I found out that an 8.9 Earthquake had hit Japan followed by a devastating tsunami and that an incredible number of people were expected to mark the death toll. It was terribly sad news – news I wouldn’t have gotten without chatting with people back home on my brother’s laptop.
[Well, not entirely true - I later saw a lot of news coverage on TVs at pubs and such.]
On top of that, back home in OK, wild fires were raging so bad that our new governor had to declare a state of emergency.
Some days, what with all the natural disasters and such, it really kinda feels like the world could truly come to an end in 2012 like everyone jokes about.
Yeah, it was a somber train of thought… (Train…Ha!)
But I still think you’re a kook if you really believe 12/20/2012 or whatever the newest doomsday is; I dunno, I don’t follow crazy.
Well, it was definitely snow and it’s coming down rather well now. The closer I get to Edinburgh, the whiter everything is getting. I still don’t have gloves, a hat, or a scarf, although this time I at least stole my brother’s hoodie, so I can keep my ears warm.
At least the snow makes for pretty landscape. I think I still have like half an hour left on this train ride.
Hopefully the weather doesn’t affect our planned activities too much. We are supposed to roam around the city for the whole day basically.
Haha! “…our planned activities…” “…roam around the city…” Wow! Went all out on that plan, huh?
We literally had no plan.
The plan was to have no plan and so our plans remained unaffected. We literally just kind of wandered from here to there and back again.
Next stop? Kirkcaldy! Then onward to Edinburgh!
So, I got to Waverly Station – I can’t recall the time exactly. And I must remind you, I was going to Edinburgh to see Charlie alone. My brother was staying at his flat in Dundee this day. He walked me to the Dundee train station, made sure I was getting the right tickets, and then I was on my own.
Yes, I’m the elder sibling, so it seems silly to say I couldn’t manage on my own. But I’ve also done very little on my own – sad, but true. In Oklahoma, there simply isn’t much TO DO. So, of course, I don’t really have to have my hand held here. But I was somewhat nervous about going to Edinburgh alone. This was different than getting on the plane in OKC and flying to London because, for the most part, I was on a plane the whole time and there was a relatively low chance they were going to lose me. Plus, I knew my brother would be at the end to greet me.
On this day, however, I kept wondering what would happen if I got to Edinburgh and I couldn’t find Charlie, he couldn’t find me…we just ended up unfindable! On the train ride, I – in true nerd fashion – planned out an alternative course of action. (And I think by now you know what I mean when I say I “planned”.)
The idea was that I’d wait at the train station for Charlie, as planned. If he didn’t show, I’d call my brother on his borrowed (extra) cell phone and tell him. Then I’d decide not to waste my day in Edinburgh since I’m an adult and could take care of myself and see the sites alone, like a responsible grown-up. I’d carefully stop at the first shop with a map of the city and buy one, so as to make damn sure I didn’t get lost and then later be unable to find the train station again. (Though logic told me I shouldn’t worry too much because I couldn’t imagine the Edinburgh locals being total asses and like…ignoring me or pushing me into the snow-slush if I should have to ask for directions.)
But plans aside from that? Why…to wander, of course! I’d just have to amble up and down the city streets alone and take photos of as much cool stuff as possible til I got really bored and lonely and miserable – at which point, I’d just make my way back to Waverly, accept defeat, and sadly return to Dundee feeling vaguely empty inside.
True, it’s not a very appealing plan, but I had little else to go on in thought-mode. Truth is, I’m not really sure what I’d have done. You don’t really know your true character until you’re put under stress. I might’ve panicked or I might’ve been just fine and found out I could rather enjoy myself alone. Who really knows?
Initially, I was afraid that this plan would come to fruition. The reason for this being: I got off the train, went through the gate and found the first ice-bench to freeze my ass off on. And I waited.
And watched the people waiting.
Who, in turn, watched me watching them as we both…? You got it! Waited.
Turns out I didn’t wait for as long as it felt like I waited. Charlie was a victim of ice-tripping on his way to meet me, you see. This means that he…um… was viciously and cruelly uh, well, really he just kind of slipped on the ice and fell on this ass. But it was a fall of manly, epic proportions! It was LEGEN-waitforit-DARY!
But so we met up and went on our way. And I didn’t write another thing in my journal for the rest of the day. (Oooh! Look at clever Heather, she made a rhyme! HAIKU TIME? *Ahem* No. Just…No.)
MARCH 19th! Two whole days later! WHAT A SLACKER!
So, I failed miserably [again] in keeping up to date with my little journal idea.
As per my last entry, the snow did not impede our day of activities. [Hah! Notice I didn't say planned this time? Maybe I realized after the fact just how stupid it was to say we had planned anything. Anything at all...] In fact, it didn’t remain snow for all that long. It very quickly degraded into mere freezing cold drizzle rain slush – perhaps more sprinkling.
How do you like that for literary art? I threw the “mere” in to give it some authority. Truly, I’m an amazing writer in the making, can’t you tell? O.o
We popped into a small shop for a breakfast consisting of a bacon roll and hot chocolate for me and a simple cappuccino for Charlie. A bacon roll really is just that: several large slaps of bacon inside a large roll. A BLT without the LT.
And yes, that’s really what I called them at the time: slaps of bacon. Why? I have no idea. They were too small to be full blown slabs of meat but they put American bacon to shame. I don’t know if you’re aware of the differences between American bacon and the bacon in the UK – but there are differences.
For starters, this is American Bacon:
American Bacon is thin, shriveled-up, crispy, but still delicious in its own right.
And for comparison, this is UK Bacon:
UK Bacon is huge and tastes FANTASTIC, it takes up half the whole damn plate, for crying out loud!
UK BACON means serious business, people. American Bacon…they’re just shrinky dinks in comparison!
Okay, now that you know the difference, I’ll illustrate the funny little story that goes with my breakfast in Edinburgh that morning.
Waitress: What can I get for you?
Me: *looking at breakfast menu* What exactly is a bacon roll?
Waitress: *confused expression* Excuse me?
Me: *being a stupid American (this was after the discussion with the flatmates about how different words mean different stuff in the UK)* Is a roll like a biscuit? Or like a dinner roll?
Waitress: *giving the “are you stupid?” but “awww, how cute” expression now* A roll isn’t a biscuit, dear. It’s a large round piece of bread…a roll.
Me: *feeling dumber* Oh. That makes sense. And…so a bacon roll…? *feeling dumber and dumber* That’s like…a roll with…bacon on it? *peeks at waitress, who is probably thinking I’m slow in the head* And nothing else? Just the bacon?
Me: You know what, just bring me the bacon roll. I’ll eat whatever it is.
But you know – in all truth and fairness, it really was JUST a super dry roll with a hunk of bacon. I definitely needed the water that came with it or I might have suffocated on thick, dry bread. Even WITH the hot chocolate I had ordered. I mean, it’s not like you can gulp down hot chocolate to wash down dry bread – I mean, for starters it’s frickin’ HOT. And for seconds…it’s just kind of… weird.
But anyway! It was still delicious.
The next story from that day goes like this:
After breakfast, we stopped at an H&M so Charlie could buy a coat.
H&M is a clothing store for my fellow Americans who don’t know and instead immediately thought of a risque magazine… O.o … Or was that just me? I have two brothers…I mean, C’mon! I had to be reminded that the magazine was actually called “FHM” and not H&M, but it didn’t matter – I’d already thought of FHM Magazine even if I had the name wrong. So now, naturally, I have permanently somehow associated this innocent family clothing store with a suggestive men’s magazine. Eh *insert carefree shrug here* Not like it’s hurting anyone, and I get a chuckle out of it.
Being from one of the sunnier states in our great nation, Charlie didn’t own anything that remotely resembled a winter coat or anything you might wear during snowy weather. Once we purchased the warm, woolen pea coat, we then searched for a shop still selling winter gear: a scarf and gloves, specifically, for me.
Apparently by March Edinburgh no longer carries winter clothes – they were already preparing fort warmer climes despite the frigid temps and the snow.
Now, I’m not one to really keep up on the weather trends in the United Kingdom. Maybe it was unusually cold for March last year. Maybe March is typically a much warmer month for them but alas, El Niño! Or you know…something like that. Point is…there were no gloves to be found ANYWHERE.
We ended up hopping from souvenir shop to souvenir shop as we discovered they were the only ones that might possibly be selling gloves and such. When we stopped for Charlie to buy a winter hat [a blue one that screamed "tourist" with the Scottish flag on the front] – the Indian (maybe?) man in a turban (I kid you not) with a genuine Scottish accent told us not to go trying to climb Arthur’s Seat.
Yes, by this time during our pointless meandering, Charlie had decided we had to climb a mountain (and yes, Arthur’s Seat is a mountain for those of you who do not know. Maybe not a very tall or very big mountain from the looks of it, but it still counts.)
Now, looking back on this…I realize with my crystal-clear hindsight that perhaps climbing a mountain without any winter gear, with only a thin coat and a hoodie, a pair of plain Nike sneakers, during rainy, snowy, ice-slushy weather is probably not the most brilliant idea.
But Hell! Who cares about brilliant ideas when you’re flying by the seat of your pants?
The man told us not to go. He said trying to climb Arthur’s Seat was a bad idea because we would “absolutely, most definitely slip and fall and have to go to hospital and ruin your holiday.”
Of course, once we made it to Arthur’s Seat and could see all the people going up, we decided to totally disregard Mr. Scottish Apu and go up as well.
It was a very cold, slick, white trip to the top.
I’d also like to add that it was not easy going either. The steps kept getting steeper and slicker. And while it didn’t look so very tall from the ground, it is still a mountain. It started looking much higher as we went up. In addition, my lazy ass was so out of shape that I got exhausted pretty quickly and of course, we hadn’t the foresight to bring water either.
The above photo was a picture I took of the path we had to walk up at the beginning. You can just see a bit of Edinburgh over the edge there.
Below is a photo of the stairway we eventually came to, and this was what we had to climb to the top. It just kept getting steeper and steeper.
By the time we had made it to the top, there was nothing to see but white mist all around us.
I didn’t fall once the whole way up. It wasn’t til we were at the top that I fell and nearly twisted my knee off between two large [slick as hell] boulders.
This was what it looked like up at the top – that’s Charlie climbing up in front of me. You could literally see nothing. On a clear day, I imagine you’d be able to see a spectacular view of the city below, but we just didn’t have that kind of luck. I’d try to visit during the spring or summer if I was you.
We asked some men at the top for the easiest path back down and some man pointed out the best route. Turns out that route was one of the steepest ways down apparently. We slid more than walked and both of us fell several more times before we’d reached the bottom.
I’m not even kidding when I say this, but that man sent us on the Arthur’s Seat Slip’N'Slide. The first time I fell I landed hard on my nice, expensive DSL camera bag (er…the nice, expensive camera, I mean…not the bag. The bag was actually really cheap…). I was for sure something had broken. But luckily, the bag mostly sank into the snow and soft ground below me and it was perfectly fine. It was a freaking feat of epic proportions that I made it to the bottom without destroying that camera.
The best part of this is that after we left the man and started on our way back down, we noticed that the man was just sitting up there watching us as we fell and got up and fell again, over and over. He watched us for a ridiculous amount of time. I have my suspicions that he told us that was the best way down just for the entertainment value he’d get out of it. He had to be enjoying the show: two idiots tripping, sliding, flailing…and falling? Who wouldn’t laugh at that?
I have to admit though, we probably laughed more than anyone watching us as we basically bounced our way down to the road at the bottom. The trip was exhausting but fun and we managed to get a lot of good pictures (and some fun ones) too.
Of course, the laughter died fairly quick after we reached the bottom and realized we were on the back side of the mountain and to get to back to the city, we’d have to walk the loooong road around. And at that point, we were now basically drenched from falling into the snow so much, so I was freezing twice as much as I thought possible.
Following our long walk back into town, we found a pub and stopped for something to eat. We were seated at a table right next to the radiator, which was heavenly. I set my hoodie close to it and brushed my leg as close as possible to dry my pant leg off. Then we ordered. The pub food here didn’t seem as appealing as the last pub I’d eaten in, but they had salmon, and I figured I could manage that. It was some kind of salmon salad.
When it came out, the salmon was like…raw? It might’ve been somewhat cooked. I just kept thinking of that scene in the movie “Heartbreakers” when Sigourney Weaver ends up having to eat the plate full of raw beef. I ate most of it, if not all – can’t really remember. I just know I was super hungry.
After a nice rest at the pub, we decided to go see Edinburgh Castle. But alas, twas not to be our day. When we did arrive, they had already closed. Instead, we traipsed around the city and saw some of the other sights. We wandered, we took photos, and we had a lot of fun. And we stopped at a place called “Chocolate Soup” at some point in the middle of all that.
Now, I, personally, don’t like chocolate – I hate it. It’s nasty, it stinks, etc. But for some reason this applies only to dark chocolate. White chocolate – I love. So I got a cup of hot white chocolate. It was TO DIE FOR. Oh my God. And soooo warm. It was the perfect treat. Until I got to the last quarter of the cup and then I thought I’d had so much sweet I might vomit. Toward the bottom it just got to be too much for me.
If you’re ever in Edinburgh – find and stop at Chocolate Soup and try the hot white chocolate. It’s so good.
And I guess I can’t wrap things up that quickly – there’s still too much to write about. But future posts may be a bit longer just to include as much as possible in the last few posts rather than writing another ten or fifteen.
So, to close out this one, I’ll throw in yet another set of photos from the rest of our wandering around Edinburgh. This will include our visit to Calton Hill where we also saw the Edinburgh Shame (a never-completed Greek-like structure that tourists take pictures with now!), a random cemetery where I found ANOTHER Lincoln monument, and just some nice shots of the city in general.