Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Sixteen thousand steps in Scotland

I debated whether or not to write a travel journal, as David is blogging away already. But if you care to, you can read both: he'll supply the poetry and atmosphere. I will tell you what we ate, and how much of it I spilled on myself.

Today is our second day in Edinburgh. We flew out of New York; I had forgotten about the afternoon taxi shift-change, so it was a bit of a challenge finding a taxi willing to go to JFK at 4:15. I haven't checked out the new Airtrain yet; perhaps it's less hassle than getting to JFK on the A train (which I've done - you just need a spare two hours.) We got there speedily enough, and got on a plane so large it was being boarded at two gates. United's coach class is snug (when the woman in front of me reclined, I could have given her a scalp massage), but surrounded by pillows, blankets, books, bottles of water, I managed to sleep a bit (thanks, Unisom.)

The British women across the aisles from me had some issues with their seats - namely, that one of their seats wasn't a seat at all. It had broken; a technician came along to reinstall the cushion, somehow leaving it wet and soaked. The women made up for their misfortune by having many brandy-and-lemonades, and singing along with the music in their headphones. I tried not to get sucked into their drama, but when they pestered the flight attendant for another cushion, it was all I could do not to fling them my pillow. I can't help it. (Crumb report: the hot buns they served were delicious. I ended up with flakey crumbs all throughout my United Airlines-supplied blanket.)

I set my watch to UK time once we arrived at JFK, attempting to pull a fake-out with my body in hopes of avoiding jet lag. It seemed to work fairly well; I was a bit tired once we arrived, but no more so than if I had stayed up late.

My latest obsession has been haunting the forums at Fodors.com, where you can get instant advice on subjects like the fastest way to get from Heathrow to King's Cross at rush hour (answer: forget the Heathrow Express, which takes you to Paddington - a bad place to be at 8:30 am - instead, ride the tube all the way from Heathrow.) The travel mavens there dispensed advice on every aspect of the trip - scolding you if you haven't researched the forum archives sufficiently - but it was all very helpful. David mocked me about it, of course, as I can get too wound up about being prepared. For instance, when my family came to visit New York and we all had to try to sit together on a crowded Amtrak train to Baltimore, I had us hovering near the gate, ready to charge like stampeding wildebeests. But, we speedy wildebeests got seats together, whereas the slower members of the herd were eaten by lions - er, didn't get a seat, I mean.

Once we were off the plane, to the tube station we went. I brought some British money along with me that had been left over from my last trip to the UK. When I tried to buy a tube ticket with a five pound note, I was informed by the clerk (nicely) that it was about 15 years old, and their currency had changed. Who knew? I felt a bit like I had tried to buy a Metrocard with a doubloon.

We got to King's Cross train station in record time, thanks to the advice from Fodor's. We spotted the "Platform 9 3/4" sign that they've installed for Harry Potter fans; our train, the Flying Scotsman service to Edinburgh, left from Platform 4. The Flying Scotsman train waiting on the next platform over looked very Scottish, with seats upholstered in plaid, handsome panelling on the walls, and small lamps on the tables. Our train looked like it had come directly from 1981, bringing a load of smoked glass and gray carpeting along with it.

The scenery on the ride to Edinburgh was lovely; endless acres of gently rolling farmland, with herds of frolicking sheep. We also passed the coast on a few occasions, where the waves pounded against rocky shores, beneath lonely stone ruins. (Crumb report: we were served shortbread along with our coffee on the train. Shortbread crumbs everywhere.)

The trip was 4 1/2 hours although it seemed to go much more quickly. We arrived in the Edinburgh train station and began bumping our luggage down the cobblestone streets to the B&B. The place I had chosen was farther away than we anticipated, but not awfully far away - a 20 minute walk. Because we'd taken an earlier train and were there an hour before we had originally indicated, no one was there to greet us. So, we bumped our bags back down the street to a tiny coffee shop, where we had hot chocolate and delicious crusty grilled sandwiches. The entire length of Pilrig Street, where we were staying, was lined with guest houses. It's the B&B ghetto.

Back to the B&B at the appointed hour, we met our smiling host, and were ushered into our very large room, complete with a three-paned bay window looking over the street and velvet chaise longue. Did I mention this is gay-owned? Perhaps I didn't need to.

We passed out for a nap, waking up somewhere around seven o'clock. It was dark, and was raining a bit. We set off to walk around and find some dinner; we wandered around Old Town, where, soaking wet, we stumbled into a nice pub/restaurant called the Royal MacGregor (of course.) After a bottle of wine and a nice dinner (which we pretended didn't cost an unbelievable amount of money due to the weak dollar) we walked back home. (Crumb report: within one minute of tucking into my steak pie, I had gravy down my shirt and on my pants. The stain on my pants was later joined by a smudge of sticky toffee pudding. David wondered whether I could add "King of Stains" to my roster of titles. I don't aspire to be King, but perhaps could purchase a small baronetcy. Baronet of Blots.)

We got up at a fairly decent hour and had our Scottish breakfast, served by our host in a waiter's apron and muscle shirt. I snarfed David's serving of sausages and bacon as well as my own, justifying it with the fact that we'd be doing a lot of walking.

We started where everyone begins their tour: Edinburgh Castle, where the views over the city are amazing. The weather was windy but the rain had lifted; we strolled down the Royal Mile, popping into the Museum of Scotland for an hour or so. We also walked around Greyfriars Kirkyard, which is atmospheric and creepy enough in the afternoon - we'll see what it's like after dark.

By that time, we'd gone 16,000 steps and were fading a bit; back to the B&B we came. After some time catching up on e-mail (we're addicted, it's awful), David is now napping. We're heading out in a few hours to find some dinner and then to go on the City of the Dead tour, which ends up in the Covenanter's Prison section of Greyfriars. There many people have encountered the Mackenzie Poltergeist; it has grabbed the unwary, leaving scratches and marks. Some have felt cold and sick, and some have passed out.

If anything happens to me, it will likely be because I ate too many sausages.


Blogger David said...

It wasn't the KING OF STAINS, it was the SAINT OF STAINS. That way, you get the anagram, see? :) Remind him to tell you about the big chocolate blob conjured by the Mackenzie Poltergeist.

3:07 PM  
Blogger Sherry said...

Awwww, you guys are having so much fun. I want to do all that. I should be stalkerish, find your B&B and then call incessantly and bug you until you come visit me.

As for the £5 notes changing, they only changed last year and everybody had to be told that they were changing by massive signs so don't feel bad.

12:33 AM  
Blogger Hanuman1960 said...

SIGH! It all sounds so lovely! But, poor little Goblin Foo is missing out on all those yummy crumbs! :(

6:01 AM  
Blogger eyduck said...

Alright, it has been a few days since your last post... Did you survive? Or did McKenzie get chu?

9:29 AM  

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