Wednesday, December 4, 2013
The train trip to Edinburgh was about six hours long. I was perfectly comfortable and I enjoy train travel, but as we got closer and closer to the destination, I found myself turning almost completely around in my seat so I could look out the window in the direction of travel. I realized, as the land began to change and I saw waves of the North Sea crashing up against the cliffs, I had never been that far north in my life. And it was obvious, because the land outside the window didn't look like anything I'd ever seen before. It sort of seemed like I was looking through a copy of National Geographic, rather than out the window of a moving train.
When I got to the city, I found it to be a similar sensation, in that I'd never seen a place that looked like it before. Edinburgh is a steep, grey city. And it seems a little like a constant fairy tale, with its castle on the old volcano smack dab in the center. And I'll have it known that I was treated to the strains of a bagpipe not even five minutes after I stepped off my train. When I arrived, it had already begun to get dark, and I bumbled around trying to find my hostel for about 40 minutes, getting a little nervous that my maps were insufficient. That's the really nerve-wracking thing about being in a foreign city without phone service- if you get lost, you're lost until you can find some nice person to help you. That first night when I arrived at the hostel, I got myself some dinner and went to see the new Judi Dench movie, Philomena, at a cinema down the street. I didn't want to be sitting in the hostel, but I wasn't up for any strenuous exploring just yet, and especially not in the dark.
So the first I really saw of the city was the next morning when I made my way almost accidentally over to the Princes Street Gardens. That's when I saw the castle for the first time, and the first traces of frost on the ground. Scotland was significantly colder than Kent, so I've been very glad that I brought my winter coat in spite of all the advice I received to leave it at home. My first day in Edinburgh consisted of a walk up Calton Hill, when I was treated to a magnificent view of the haar coming in from the Forth, and blurry views of myself as I tried for some self-timer photos with the vista of the city behind me. I did my homage walk to Mr. McCall Smith, which I shall reserve for the next post, and ate my lunch from the Sainsbury's deli overlooking the Gardens and the National Gallery. I then actually went to the Gallery, which I loved and allowed photography, and then took a trip up to the castle, where I made use of my English Heritage Pass once again. One of my biggest surprises of the day was the number of really old cemeteries in Edinburgh, and what a prominent part of the city they are. I actually started my day by stumbling across one on the west end of the Gardens, again coming to the conclusion that it was unlike any I'd ever seen. Edinburgh cemeteries are filled with walls and monuments like small, open-air rooms. They were fascinating, and I was torn between trying to be respectful and wanting to document every design quirk in these graves that were so new to me. The funny thing was, I apparently was inadvertently wandering around some of the most haunted places in Britain as I innocently walked around these cemeteries.
I rounded my day off with a trip to the National Museum and then made my way to a local Tesco Metro for some dinner and Irn Bru before I went to my evening entertainment of Mansfield Park, at the King's Theatre, which again was just down the street from my hostel. I always feel a little apprehensive about Austen turned into stage plays, but this show was charming and I went to bed that night feeling very content indeed.