Friday morning was another early one. It was awful saying goodbye to Inverness, as we'd fallen in love with the town in such a short period. We took a taxi back to the train station and as we drove through the village one last time, I made a silent vow to return one day. There was a deep sense of sadness, but only because it came from a profound connectivity to the area. We were now taking a train back to Edinburgh by way of Perth. The total route would take about three and a half hours but when we got to the platform, we discovered the train to already be [almost] full, even though it was late morning. Apparently there was a concert in Glasgow that evening and many people were traveling that way for it. We were not able to sit together as a family during the first leg of the journey, but we DID get to sit around a lot of drunk teenagers, so that was loads of fun!
It's always a good time when at only 10:00 in the morning, the kids are already pulling out their beer and wine coolers. I say "kids" because the legal drinking age in the UK is eighteen, and these kids were just barely of age. I remember what it was like when I was finally old enough to do illicit things and I made an effort to let the world know I was old enough. I'm sure that's what these kids were doing as well. But my God, were they loud and ridiculously slashed. The F word flew in abundance as the kids shouted to one another from opposite ends of the car and in all of it, we were thrilled that our children were all sitting split up from each other. At one point I got up to use the restroom and had to make my way through all the drunkards. They weren't making it easy to get through, and I got mad. I was polite, but mad.
On my way back through, one of the guys who originally shouted profanity in my face, was now fully intoxicated and as I passed him again, he shouted out, "Hey! You're that hot mom! Hey lads, it's the hot mom!" Ha. I doubt he would have said such things in a sober state, as he'd called me a bitch a few minutes before.
Eventually, fellow passengers got up and moved around to let this "large" American family sit closer to each other. At least now we were only one row away from our kids, instead of an entire car. By this time, most of the teenagers were passed out and sleeping, so the train was a lot quieter. I spent the ride through the Cairngorms National Park just looking out the window, watching the rain splatter against the glass, and imaging the possibility of my ancestors treking across that very land. The woods were barren, but beautiful. The farms and fields were placid. When starting out on our trip, I never would have imagined that train rides would be one of my favorite parts, but I really and truly loved the trains.
Eventually we stopped in Perth, which was the connection for everyone going on to Glasgow. We were sad to see our new drunk teenage friends leave, but not THAT sad. At least half the train emptied in Perth and then we were on our way to Edinburgh. This would be our last long train ride and I was truly crestfallen to see it come to an end.
We arrived in Edinburgh early afternoon and luckily, our hotel was only about five blocks from the train station. Just stepping out into the city had us realizing that the capital was unlike anything else we'd patronized on our trip thus far. It was older than time and had a different feel than the small towns and villages we'd visited in England, Wales, and definitely the smaller towns in Scotland. Even London was extremely different than Edinburgh. While London seemed all about the monarchy, Scotland's capital felt medieval and spoke of ancient battles and warriors. It's a difficult thing to explain, really. I'd spent some time looking at graduate programs in my same field and fantasized about taking the family and studying abroad and while I thought Cambridge was where my heart lived, walking through the streets of Edinburgh made me see that my heart truly lived there. There even came a point when Cody admitted that the thought of living at the University of Edinburgh for a few years was pretty damn tempting.
Right?! This could be our life every single day! Gothic Majesty. Pure Gothic majesty!
We checked into our hotel which was right on Princes Street. Because we hadn't known where we were staying or what we were doing anywhere and were literally flying by the seat of our pants, we didn't find the place until about midnight the night before. And we lucked out with their rates because they just wanted to fill rooms and gave us the rooms at a great price. After checking in and dropping our luggage, we set out on foot to find food because we hadn't eaten breakfast that morning and were starving. After wandering for a while, we found this quaint pub in the basement of a larger building. The Boozy Cow. It was delicious, and they even had American yellow mustard!
One of Cody's bucket-list items was to climb Arthur's Seat. It's a mountain (by Scotland standards) that has a rise of about 1,000 feet from base to summit. We took a cab out that way because it was a mile outside of the city and the kids were too tired to make the walk. Our cabbie was wildly interesting and told us all kinds of tidbits about the city. On the way, we passed the Holyrood Palace and flying atop it was the English flag. The cabbie told us that meant someone from the Royal Family was staying there, because that's why the flag was waving (and there was a wee bit of distaste in his voice as the words slipped over his tongue). Like the smart-ass I am, I whispered to the kids, "Oh look, children! That means the Royal Butt Wiper must be staying there too!" Because of course, the Royals don't even wipe their own butts and they take their Butt Wiper with them on every holiday.
Like most days in that part of the world, it was COLD and RAINY and WINDY. Not the best kind of weather to do a climb like that, but the kids were troopers. As we climbed, it was surreal to think of William Wallace and the like traversing that same place. It was a difficult hike in that weather, but we made it to the summit, wet and cold, and my mama bear instincts were going mad when the kids got close to the edge. However, looking out at the city and the ocean was unbelievable and made the climb worth every step.
On the way back down, we stopped at some Abby ruins.
Now soaking wet, we took off on foot and walked back to the city. We stopped at Holyrood, but didn't catch a glimpse of the Butt Wiper. Darn it! However, we did attempt to find a bus and walked for a long time as we tried to figure out the proper route that would drop us back near Princes Street. We never did and while we could have walked, we were exhausted and covered in rain and mud so we took another taxi. We decided to utilize our time the best way we could, so we didn't go back to the hotel and get dry. Instead, we took shelter inside a kilt shop and stayed in there for the longest time and probably spent way too much money on trinkets. But I did buy a tartan wool blanket that now sits on the back of the couch in our home, and I use it all the time. The shop was enormous and I don't know what was more enjoyable- looking around or talking to the locals. The incredible thing about Scotland is that no one is in a hurry. I guess because the weather is always cold and wet, people spend a great amount of time indoors simply chatting, and I loved it.
|The Chudda is such a bonny wee lass.|
While Cody was being fitted for a waistcoat and blazer, I took the kids upstairs to a tea shop that was just wrapping up afternoon tea, but the proprietor was kind enough to let us stay and eat and get cozy. The shop had the perfect overlook of the city and we likely stayed the for an hour or so and I tried a couple of new tea varieties that were excellent.
Cody and Ethan found us upstairs in the tea room, but we finally decided to retire a little early and head back down the street to the hotel. We hadn't been able to do laundry in days and we were almost out of clean drawers, so after getting the kids settled in their room (seriously, they turned on the TV and found a movie about the Loch Ness Monster...kind of like Jaws but all about killer Nessy and her killer baby...HILARIOUS!!) I went back to our room and started doing laundry in the bathtub. Cody, however, ventured out on the town and found a store selling all kinds of clothes (It was a Primark; a store that we'd become very familiar with over the next week!). He bought several packs of undies and then it was time for bed. I was still doing school work while traveling, so I finished writing a paper and hit the hay.
It had been an incredibly day. Long and tiring, but incredible. It was hard to believe that in less than twenty-four hours and in another country, we'd be reuniting with our Irish family and I tried to sleep, but it was hard to make my mind shut off that night! I was far too excited to hug my Irish son again!