Sunday, May 2, 2010

the open summer breeze will sweep you through the hills

I woke up when the cell phone alarm went off. And I was happy to find that I had woken up awake and unfoggy. I hopped out of bed and got ready with reasonable speed. I packed up most of my stuff, so that if I got back with not much time until noon, I’d be able to check out in time.

The Scottish pancakes with strawberry jam were delicious.

It was a lovely walk to the bus stop. I had plenty of time, and I found the correct bus stop without too much trouble. The location of the hotel is splendid – it’s right off the main street where there’s bus stops to absolutely anywhere around Edinburgh you want to go. It was a beautiful sunny morning, just a little chilly but not too cold.

Now that it was daylight I could see the big green hill with the castle on top of it. It was so lovely.

The bus came on time, and I hopped on.

After riding for a little while, I realized that the stop I needed to get off at was one of the small stops that isn’t on the stop list. So I went and asked the bus driver when the stop was coming up.

The stop was called Mauricewood. I had to repeat it a couple times, and he asked where it was I was going, and I told him to the Pentland Hills, eventually, so I needed to take the connecting bus, and he said okay, and then said that there were two stops I could get off at, and he would tell me where.

We stopped at about three more stops, and then he told me to get off, and said to walk up and turn left at the traffic light.

So I did that. I got off, and I walked up to the light. The cross street didn’t say Mauricewood, but I hoped that it was another street down the road. I could see bus stops ahead.

Well, I got to the bus stops. The bus that I needed – 101 – did not stop at these stops. And I was pretty sure that I had not gone anywhere near far enough. I was pretty sure that the bus driver was full of – nonsense.

The farther I walked down that street, and found nothing that resembled anywhere I needed to be, the surer I became. I asked a passerby. He’d never heard of Mauricewood.

Eventually I found a taxi driver, with two men standing at his window, chatting with him. I explained my story. They knew where Mauricewood was – turns out it’s pronounced Morriswood, go figure – and it was far away.

I told them that the bus that they were saying I needed was the bus I had been on, and what the bus driver had said.

“That bastard!” one said indignantly. It was a great relief to have someone else angry on my behalf.

But the taxi driver didn’t offer to drive me anywhere for free, and I set off down the road to try to figure out how to get on a bus that would get me to the Pentland Hills Regional Park the soonest.

I confess I was upset. I’d done everything I could to have as much time as possible to do what I wanted to do in Edinburgh. I’d done everything right. I’d gotten up, I’d gotten on the correct bus, I had everything planned, I’d asked the bus driver in order to make sure I didn’t miss the stop… and now I was going to lose a minimum of a full hour. Why? Why would the bus driver be so cruel, to not care if he understood me, to just tell me to get off when he didn't know? “I am not going to freak out,” I told myself. “I want to be the kind of person who handles things without going to pieces.” So I calmed down. I didn’t panic; I looked at my bus lists and at the bus stops and figured out what I needed to do – I could get a bus back into town, and take a bus that would take me almost directly there.

But I was still going to lose about an hour and a half of my precious time, through no fault of my own.

And despite my resolution to be tough and capable, I found myself starting to cry as I walked.

It turned out that crying was the best thing I could have done at that moment, because a taxi driver came, going the opposite way from me, and saw me. I looked at him, sort of pleadingly I suppose, and he immediately turned around and pulled up next to me and rolled down his window.

“I’m sorry,” I said, “I’m just really frustrated because I got bad directions and so I’m losing over an hour and I don’t have much time…”

“Where did you want to get to?”

I explained where I was going and what I had tried to do.

“I just want to get someplace with hills,” I finished, trying not to cry.

He said that he didn’t know where the Pentland Hills were, but there was a very nice place full of green hills where he and his wife often walked, and he could take me there, and it would probably cost about £12, and there was a bus stop right by it where I could take the bus back into town. So I considered for a moment and decided to take him up on it.

So he took me to the place, pointing out the bus stop on the way.

This is the sign I saw when we got there.

I was only a half-hour later than the time I was supposed to arrive originally. And actually, since my directions hadn’t really given me the closest bus stop, I probably didn’t lose any time at all.

I was one thankful, happy girl.

So I wandered up the path into the hills. Here and there, there were people, but not so many that it felt like not the country.

There were sheep wandering about.

I think I must just describe it in pictures… it was so incredibly lovely and it’s hard to put it into words.

There was a poetic-looking gathering of trees.

I sat on this one:

And Wyvner sat here:

I got all the way up to where I was by the patch of snow I'd seen in the distance before.

I got sick of carrying my bag, so I hid it in a clump of trees. The trees had wool caught in their branches...

I wanted to be surrounded by the hills, so I walked over to the other side. And I lay down in the grass for a bit on the hillside, and looked down into the valley.

And, to my happiness, I had sufficient fill of hilliness and made it back for the earlier of the two buses I was thinking of taking.

Even though we stopped on the way to play Poohsticks. (Wyvner won.)

The view from the bus stop:

There weren’t any seats left with nobody, so I sat close to the front next to a rather scruffy young man who didn’t look too unfriendly.

So we were riding along, and I was looking around and out the windows at everything, but not directly at him. He smelled like alcohol, though not strongly enough to make me feel sick. He kept looking at me in a strange way, all the time, rather as though I was a very peculiar yet fascinating creature from another planet.

Finally I looked at him and met his eyes.

After that he wouldn’t quit talking. It was a pretty standard small-talk-with-a-slightly-drunk-person-who-thinks-you’re-cute kind of conversation. Not too bad, but I was relieved when he got off.

It was nice to have caught the earlier bus, because I got to pop into a couple shops on the way back to the hotel – although I then got my stuff packed up just in time to check out.

The walk to the railway station would have been unpleasant due to carrying all my stuff, except that it was brilliantly sunny and there were people playing bagpipes.

I didn’t have too much trouble finding the “left luggage” place, although I realized that I needed to get money out of the cash machine because I’d spent the last of what I had on the food at M&S.

I then had a very nearly dreadful experience, because the machine asked if I was okay with some kind of fee and I said no and I thought it had cancelled, but after I walked away it spit the money out! Fortunately two honest boys were behind me and called after me and brought it to me. I was extremely thankful.

It occurred to me as I was going to the left luggage that Lumpy was not going to fit into my backpack, and as I wasn’t prepared to pay another seven pounds to check him in, I might be carrying him around Edinburgh all day…

But, “We don’t charge for elephants,” said the man at the counter. I decided not to try to explain that he was a heffalump. He got to ride through the x-ray machine.

And then I was off. I knew I wanted to go to the Royal Mile, so I walked in that direction.

I ended up at the hill with the Nelson Monument.

And I found a very pretty cat.

It was so lovely. I could see the whole city spread out before me, and the hill was so green.

And Scotland is very reasonable about monuments. We all climbed all over it, despite the danger. It was so bright and sunny, and everyone seemed so happy.

I went down and found my way to the Royal Mile. On the way I found these stairs:

And went up them and found this place:

I'd like to live there.

When I was at the Royal Mile, I went into way too many tourist stores. I wanted something in the Buchanan tartan (my mom's side of the family), preferably a ladies kilt, but the only ones I found weren't made in Scotland, and all the touristy-ness kind of left a bad taste in my mouth. Also I was getting really hungry. It was a pretty place, though:

I was getting really hungry, and when I found a place that I had found listed in the food and drink booklet I had that I had thought of going to, it was posted outside the door that you had to buy a dinner and couldn't just buy an appetizer. So I went on.

Then I found this place.

I asked the host if you could just get an appetizer and/or a dessert or if you had to buy a dinner .

"No..." he said, looking puzzled.

"Another restaurant I stopped at down the road had a sign saying you had to buy a dinner."

He shook his head like that was the daftest thing he had ever heard.

"No, you can order whatever you want!"

And he brought me through the restaurant

To a nice little table right by the window.

And I ordered an appetizer called "a wee taste of Scotland", which was haggis, neeps (turnips), tatties (potatoes) and oatcakes. It was really good.

And then I had sticky toffee pudding. Which is absolutely incredible. Especially with cream.

Then I went and wandered through more tourist shops, and also found a lovely little garden.

It made me think of Alice in Wonderland. I wanted to jump along the hedge looking over for the spades painting the roses red.

I also found this lovely shop full of color:

I eventually made it to the castle, but I didn't get to look at it much because I had to get back to the station or I was going to miss my train.

The good thing is that I finally did find a made in Scotland Buchanan tartan 100% lambs wool kilt and I absolutely love it and it looks adorable. So although the over-exposure to touristy stuff made me enjoy Edinburgh less, it was worth it both because I found what I was looking for, something I've wanted for a very long time, and because I learned something from it and avoided touristy shops like the plague while I was in London. But I'm getting ahead of myself... I'm not to London yet...

One of the best parts of Edinburgh was the bagpipers playing on the corners -

oh! And I forgot about one of the happy parts of walking down the street, when there was a man playing the loveliest classical guitar that just brought a smile to my face and a spring to my step and so I put a pound in his case.

I made my train in time. And I was across from a couple of friendly people - a dark-haired young man with intellectual glasses and his girlfriend.

There were certain moments on the train ride when they were snuggling, and the couple across the aisle was snuggling, that I confess made me sigh...

At Newcastle, we pulled into the station and everyone stared out the windows in shock. The platform was packed with people. A football game had just ended. Oh dear.

Well, they packed the train to overflowing, but as they had just won the championship, they were all very happy and excited, and the train rather felt like a giant party.

It was about this time that the sun went down and the train went from grey and blue to golden when the inside lights came on.

At the next stop, the couple across from me got off - fighting their way through the football fans - and a couple of the fans sat across from me. It was a boy a couple years younger than me and his little brother. They were cheerful and friendly and we had a nice time talking until the stop that the other three seats started being reserved at came, and they were ousted by the rightful occupants.

These rightful occupants were three posh but friendly businessmen travelling together, which resulted in me having the strange impression of being sitting at someone else's table at a restaurant. Fortunately they were easy going and I was comfortable enough to make small talk properly. And they very kindly shared with me a bit of their merlot which was extremely nice. I think I have expensive taste in wines.

I arrived back in Peterborough at about nine o'clock, I think. Jack was right there waiting when I got off the train, and I talked his ear off all the way home.

And then I had supper, and caught up on internet stuff after not having it for four days, and went to bed.


Shan said...

My kids loved your post today. :) Especially the part about Poohsticks. :D
Also, we are now listening to bagpipes on YouTube because Kate wanted to know what they sounded like.

lois said...

Look at that, Joanna. You helped Shannon homeschool Kate today!

Anonymous said...

I'm angry at that bus driver, too, for giving you bad directions! I would have cried too. Thank goodness you met that taxi driver!

lois said...

I am always so glad when you include pictures of yourself. You always look so pretty and happy.

Joe said...

I think I am the only one that wants to know what game had just gotten out to pack the train but that is just me. Bag pipes rock.