Monday morning and we managed to escape Lurch’s watchful eye! A quick breakfast (skipping the black pudding) we made our way through the ever changing road work zone and found our train to Glasgow. The labyrinth streets of Edinburgh are nearly impossible because the city fathers have decided to add a tram line. In order to have the entire line up and running by 2014, the entire city is being excavated at once. Buses and taxis have found that the easiest way to get from point A to point B is to keep one tire on the sidewalk. Being a pedestrian is an adventure.
The train ride between Edinburgh and Glasgow is very quick. Amy had made a date for us to see the Royal Scottish Conservatory with a former classmate of Caleb’s as our guide. Mia met us at the station and we walked the few blocks to the school, which is in the city center. Downtown Glasgow is fairly manageable on foot. Mia did a super job of describing her program and Amy picked Mia’s brain on the emotional adjustments of being this far from home and the depth of the program.
After the school tour, Mia agreed to join us for a walk up to the Glasgow Cathedral and the necropolis. This cemetery sits on a cliff behind the cathedral and we hiked up the serpentine path to the very top. This provided us with a great view of the city. Glasgow is a gritty, working city that shows the ravages of two centuries of industry. But, you can see that the city is working at putting on a fresh face. There is preservation and restoration work everywhere.
Upon our return to Edinburgh we decided to have another dinner at the wonderful pub we had found the night before. We sat at “our” table and both decided on the fish and chips and wine. As we chatted about our day and our overall impressions of Glasgow, we noticed a single women sitting at the next table. We could see that she was a tourist, as she had a number of brochures touting the sights of Edinburgh. Our waiter from the night before stopped by our table and asked if we had ordered haggis again. This was the perfect opening for the single diner to join our conversation. “Would you care to join us?” I asked. But I was half a beat too slow, as she had already raised herself out of her seat and was asking if we would mind if she joined us. And from this, a fabulous new friendship began! And, just to show how our lives were meant to cross, we were all staying at the same hotel. Coincidence? I think not. Catherine is a single woman from South Australia who has been traveling about for the last month. Her final leg to her journey will be in London this coming weekend to celebrate her 40th birthday by treating herself to a performance of The Lion King. Of course, several more rounds of wine and a few hours later, the three of us had hatched plans for a shared tour the next day and a meet up in London to toast Catherine’s 40th.
Tuesday, Amy and I slept in a bit and then agreed that we were smart enough to figure out the city bus routes. We discovered that the best way to find out how to get from A to Z is to stand on a street corner with a map in your hand and then spin the map about a few times. Sooner or later, some lovely senior citizen will stop and ask if they can help. This is how we learned that we wanted bus 21. We purchased our all day pass and then climbed to the top of the bus. Due to the construction, we have no sense of the route we were taking, but had somehow gotten the idea that the driver would know where we wanted to get off. Not so. Again, we had a dear wee lady offer some advice and away we went.
We worked our way up the Royal Mile to the castle. If you find yourself in Edinburgh, don’t bother paying to get into this castle unless you are a modern day military aficionado (not sure on the spelling of that one!). Edinburgh Castle is still a military base and it is not set up to give much of a look at ancient royal life. But, the views are wonderful, assuming you visit on one of the eight clear days they have a year. And, just outside the castle is a working woolen mill. This is fascinating. They are still weaving the tartan fabrics on antique looms. Catwalks and levels of retail space where you can purchase kilt socks, a sporran or yards of your clan fabric surround the factory. You’ll find a photo concession that will dress you as a Scotsman and hand you a sword for you portrait. They will print your coat of arms while you wait. And, cashmere nestles in every corner.
Once we left the mill, we continued down The Royal Mile to Mary King’s Close. This is an interesting tour down into the oldest parts of the city where people lived and worked 300 years ago. Because the newer parts of the city have been built upon the old foundations of these streets and buildings, it is now underground. A close is a very narrow alleyway between buildings and this particular one is where Mary King lived and had her seamstress business. Amy and I rendezvoused with our new friend Catherine and all took this dark and at times frightening tour. “Gardy Loo”. This is what you yelled when you opened your door and heaved the contents of the family slop bucket out onto the street, where it joined all you neighbor’s contributions, all flowing down hill to the Nor Loch. Yikes!
At the end of this tour, we three needed a beverage. We popped into the first pub we could find. We asked and Catherine confessed that she had never had haggis. Luckily, this pub offered haggis balls as an appetizer! Now, a plan was developing. We decided to have one drink and one appetizer order of haggis balls at as many pubs as we could find, ending up at the Whiskibar for our final of the evening and the presentation of traditional Scottish folk music. We all agreed that haggis fritters are far superior to haggis balls. We finally got to the Whiski and found a great table. It was somebody’s turn to buy. We began to sip our drinks and found (surprise surprise) the couple seated to my right had joined us. More Aussies. Nicki and Johnny were on holiday with a notion toward finding a location for a future inn, at which they would become the proprietors. And soon Johnny was doing what I have a feeling he usually does. He owned the room. He was up explaining Scotch whiskey to us all. He was chatting up the bartender and making glasses magically appear at our table. The music was playing, one young man in a kilt was dancing with the grandmotherly band member and now a South African/Welsh couple to my left had joined our group. Jill and Roger were keeping up with us too!
|Roger, Nicki, Amy, Jill, Catherine and Johnny|
WHAT? This place closes at 1:00 AM? But, our party was still going on. WHAT? There is a place round the corner that stays open till 3:00? Get your coats! Yes, Johnny led us round the corner and down the stairs into a nightclub of some sort. Our crew now numbered seven members and we found a wee tiny stone alcove off the main room where we could hear the band and still have conversation. I must admit that vintage Black Sabbath is not my cup of tea, but God, we were having fun. By now, we were all writing out our Facebook names and email addresses. No one wants to miss the opening of Nicki and Johnny’s Inn!
The evening finally ended with Catherine, Amy and myself sharing a cab back to our hotel. Amy and I made some sort of plan to set our alarm and throw everything into our suitcases in the morning for our train ride to London. We must get some sleep.