01.02.2017 - 28.02.2017
1 - 28 February 2017
I’m not going to give a day-by-day recap for my time in Scotland; instead, I’ll explain my usual routine and then go into further detail for those days that were unique.
I would usually sleep until around 08:00 and, after getting ready, I would either spend some time in the reception area studying or doing some work, or I would head to Starbucks where I would do the same. The mornings I allocated to school and work, breaking at lunchtime. I would go out to eat for lunch, eating at various different places around town. After lunch I would spent my afternoons exploring the city, just wandering about or visiting the museums (all of which were free). In the evenings I would either read at the hostel, play video games, or watch Netflix.
Many evenings I would catch the tram out to Edinburgh Park Station, where I’d meet up with my buddy Kevin. We’d grab a quick bite to eat and head back to his place, where we’d watch Family Guy and play video games. It was just like our time hanging out in August 2016 or when were roommates back in Seattle: nerding out! On those nights, I would catch the tram back into the city around 23:00.
My first Saturday in town, 4 February, Kevin came in to town to meet me for dinner and drinks. We met on the George IV Bridge and I was quite happy to see him once again. This was my third time visiting Scotland in the past 12 months and it was wonderful getting to hang out with Kevin so much. We wandered around New Town, searching for a pub or restaurant for dinner, but each place was either packed (due to the Six Nations rugby game going on) or the restaurant had no openings. We finally found a small bar with an open table and just decided to stay there.
The food was quite good and we sat there drinking beer (mainly Peroni) and chatting politics for several hours. Kevin and I done share the same political beliefs, but we share the basic fundamentals and can appreciate each other’s position, which is nice. The bar steadily got quieter and people left and it was only when the staff told us they were closing up the basement level that we decided to leave. We walked back over to Old Town and stopped near the Radisson Blue hotel so Kevin could grab a taxi back to his flat; by good coincidence, my hostel was right next door. While waiting for his taxi, a girl from Glasgow started chatting with us (she was quite drunk… then again, so were we). After Kevin got a taxi, I walked around the block – the long way, for some reason – to get back to my hostel.
The next day I was very hungover and I took it easy: sleeping in, lounging around the hostel, getting some coffee at Starbucks, before heading out to see Kevin that night. He too had been very hungover that day, but we couldn’t understand why; we’d each had only four or five beers, far less than either of us has when we get really drunk. Nevertheless, we suffered through it, but decided to nerd out and play video games that night. Kevin was playing an online RPG called Black Desert and he convinced me to start playing Warcraft, yet again. Thus began our routine of dinner, gaming, and Family Guy – true nerding out!
The following Friday, 10 February, I booked train tickets to go to Glasgow for the day. The train took around 45 minutes and I arrived in Glasgow around 09:30. My first thought upon arriving in the city was that it was the Tacoma of Scotland (with Edinburgh being the Seattle). I grabbed some coffee to help myself wake up before heading out for my exploration of the city.
My route took me along the riverfront, all the way down to the science museum, which was one of the few museums that charged for admission (so I didn’t go in). Instead, I headed north back into the city and visited the Riverside Museum, which was fantastic! I arrived shortly before they opened and spent the time walking around the riverfront; it started to lightly snow, but thankfully it didn’t last for long.
Inside, the museum was full of old cars, trains, and other vehicles from over the past century or so – including a Rolls Royce Phantom II! I spent some time looking at all of the various items on display, marveling at some of the old cars they had (some of the first cars ever produced; it was amazing to see how quickly and far they evolved!).
I next walked over to the Kelvingrove Art Museum, which housed a fantastic art collection, including several pieces by Monet. I didn’t spend as much time at this museum, but I did admire the Monet paintings, before walking back to the city center.
By this time I was quite hungry and stopped at a place called The Raven, where I had a beer along with some delicious mac and cheeses with pulled pork. After eating, I felt invigorated and continued on my tour of the city.
Up next was the cathedral, which was the most impressive part of the city. It was a massive gothic cathedral, beautiful both inside and out. Next to it was a wonderful little graveyard, but it was the necropolis behind the cathedral that was the main attraction. This was reached by crossing a small bridge and then one could climb the hill to look at the various tombstones and monuments. The view of the city from the top of the hill was spectacular.
I had one final stop on my tour: the People’s Palace, which was about a 30 minutes’ walk away. This part of the route took me through a more run-down and shady part of town; I began to have second thoughts about heading out there, but I was already half way there so I decided to press on. The People’s Palace was… disappointing, to say the least. I had expected something on a grand scale, but this was a small manor house building with a decent greenhouse in the back. After spending a few moments at the Palace, I decided to head back to the train station, thinking that I could easily have skipped the People’s Palace entirely.
I caught an earlier train back to Edinburgh and reached the city in time for dinner. On the journey back, it started to snow quite heavily and I was worried that it would be snowing in Edinburgh as well; thankfully that wasn’t the case.
The following Friday, 17 February, I finally met up with Pip and Stephen! I met Stephen at a bar, where we had some beer while waiting for Pip to arrive. We talked about our various travels (they had been to Uzbekistan since last I’d seen them), as well as politics (we shared similar political views). When Pip joined us, we had a couple more drinks before heading off to dinner at a wonderful Middle Eastern restaurant.
The restaurant was BYOB, so Pip pulled out two bottles of Prosecco and two large beers. When opening one of the bottles of Prosecco, Pip lost control of the cork and it flew away, much to our drunken amusement. We ordered some appetizers and I had a kebab for dinner (remembering back to all of the kebabs we ate while in Iran). By the time we were done eating, we’d gone through all of the alcohol and decided to go to a pub for a few more drinks.
We walked to a pub near the Castle, where we sat around and had a couple of drinks before finally deciding to call it a night. It was extremely drunk by this point. Pip and Stephen grabbed themselves a taxi and pointed me in the direction of my hostel: we were at the base of the Castle and I could easily find my way back from there (so I said). I drunkenly stumbled around, calling both Shane and Jake, before finally finding the road up to the Castle and the Royal Mile. I talked to Jake during much of the walk back to the hostel, which I’m sure was both amusing and annoying to him
The next morning, I didn’t have time for self-pity over being hungover (which I was); I had to pull myself together and head back to the train station to catch a train out to Durham in northern England. I grabbed a Frappuccino from Starbucks (my go-to hangover drink) and had an amazing avocado bagel at the station before grabbing my train. The route down to Durham went along the coast and was quite beautiful; thankfully I was somewhat recovered enough by that point to enjoy the views.
I arrived in Durham an hour earlier than planned for I discovered that I had booked an earlier train, so I spent the next hour at the train station reading until Alan arrived by bus. Alan is in the British Army and is stationed about 30 minutes south of Durham, but his girlfriend Kim lives in Durham, so we decided to meet up there.
Alan met me at the station around noon and we ventured off into the city center to grab some drinks while waiting for Kim to arrive. After all, what better to do when hungover than start drinking again?! Durham itself is a very picturesque, small town with a great castle and cathedral overlooking the town. We stopped in at a small pub and had several drinks while waiting for Kim. Alan and I always have the more interesting, in-depth and thought-provoking discussions – which I attribute to his fascination with world affairs and incredible education. We discussed politics, the situations in the US, the UK, and Europe; the British military; gay rights; and just general catching up on everything.
Kim arrived around 14:00 and we decided to head somewhere different to grab a bite to eat. We walked over to a burger joint, which was packed, but we were lucky enough to snag a table. After ordering food and some beers, we sat around chatting some more. Another thing Alan and I have in common is our shared nerdom: he’s every bit as big a nerd as I am (if not more so). We nerded out and talked about Star Wars, Game of Thrones, etc.
Once we were finished with our late lunch, we walked to a different part of town and stopped at another bar for some more drinks. The bar was rather busy and filled with some very…interesting people… Ok, they were Euro Trash. There’s no better way to put it. One woman was wearing all white, but her dress had a cut in it that ran all the way up to her waist, giving full view to everyone at certain times. She was with a bunch of Euro Trash friends, who were all drinking Bud Light – BUD LIGHT!! I mentioned this to Alan, who explained that Bud Light is enjoyed in the UK (we had to explain to Kim that it was a trashy, poor man’s beer in the US).
As the night wore on, the bar became a pseudo-club, with dimmed lights, dance music and a quasi-dance floor of sorts. By this point it was nearing the time for me to catch my train, so we decided to leave. When we reached the station, I discovered that my train was running an hour late, but I told Alan and Kim to go ahead and leave (they were driving back to Alan’s that night and it was already 21:15). We snapped a few pictures before saying goodbye; it was another fantastic visit with Alan.
I fell asleep on the train somehow and it was only by pure luck that the final station was Edinburgh and not somewhere further on. The conductor woke me up and was obviously not happy at me for falling asleep. I quickly grabbed my things and walked back to my hostel.
On the 15th I had to move from the High Street Hostel to the Royal Mile Backpackers Hostel as they had a policy of not allowing people to stay for more than two weeks at a time. I was initially nervous about the move as my new room would house eight people, but those fears quickly dissipated. The new hostel was less than a block from the old one and was owned by the same people. It was far smaller, with only a handful of rooms and a small kitchen/dining area. The big highlight was a small seating area with a fireplace! I spent a few mornings and evenings relaxing in front of the fire, reading! My room was very large, with the beds circling the room and leaving enough space for luggage and two chairs next to the bay window. I had quite a few different roommates during my two weeks at this hostel and they were all very nice and respectful at night. One night it was bitterly cold in town and the heating in the room wasn’t working well; my roommates had grabbed themselves some extra blankets earlier and grabbed some extra for me, just in case; it was very kind and thoughtful of them.
I also went to see two plays during my time in Edinburgh: Evita and The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time (based on Jane’s recommendation). Evita was very good; it was nice to see a professional production of it as I’d only previously seen local productions of the show. Curious Incident was absolutely amazing – it was captivating, funny, sad, and engrossing. It was a play (not a musical) and the actors were all superb. I would definitely rank it among the best theater experiences that I’ve had!
The following Friday, the 24th, I met up with Pip at Waverly Station, where we caught the train out to her house. Stephen was already there, getting dinner prepared: lamb chops! We sat around having some drinks (beer to start with), chatting and Pip gave me a tour of their home. It was very nice and they were in the midst of doing some remodeling. We had some light snacks before dinner as well; the dinner that Stephen made was delicious! During dinner we managed to drink two bottles of wine as well! It was wonderful getting to spend a relaxing evening with them at their house; relaxing, informal, and fun. I finally caught an Uber back into town around 2am – and I was quite drunk!
That weekend I witnessed one of the strangest things ever while relaxing before the fire at the hostel. An older woman, perhaps in her mid- to late-50s came in, flustered from traveling; she had platinum blonde hair and a strong London accent. She was loud, but nice and got herself checked in, saying she was going to get ready for the evening. I didn’t give her a second though until about an hour later when she came back into the lobby area, dressed for the evening. She was wearing an all-white S&M outfit: white leather boots with massive heels; a tight white girdle that was far too small for her (she wasn’t fat, slightly overweight and the girdle wasn’t flattering on her); and white lace and see-through top with long white strips over her breasts; and a large white hat that one would expect to see at a high-class horse race. She asked someone to tie up her girdle and we were all struggling not to laugh or stare too much. Once she got the girdle tied, she then tied back the two white strips that were covering her breasts – this is when things got scary. The strips were pulled back and tied behind her, revealing her breasts underneath; since the top was see-through, we could see everything. She mentioned that she was going to some S&M Dungeon that night; she was in great spirits and totally unashamed or embarrassed by her outfit; I rather admire the self-confidence and courage she had to walk around like that in public. She then left to head out, it being around 22:00 by this point; she didn’t have a jacket or anything and it was FREEZING cold that night. I never saw her again after that though.
I went to the science museum in Edinburgh several times during my stay there, in part because it was free, but also because the exhibits were so damn amazing! The area with advancing technologies was of particular interest as it had practical displays of various scientific concepts, like using heat to make things float or various types of waves (as displayed in a water tank). There were large display windows showing how phones, TVs, and computers had advanced over the years as well. There was also a rooftop terrace which provided great panoramic views of the city. It was definitely one of my favorite places to visit in the city.
On Tuesday, the 28th I met up with Pip for lunch as she worked just down the Royal Mile, at Parliament. We met at Oink, the delicious pulled pork place that I had now been to four times! The restaurant was small and quaint; they had a roast pig in the window that they pulled the pork from; when the pig was gone for the day, the place would close up. Brilliant business idea! There were three sizes of sandwiches, along with a choice of two toppings (herbs or haggis), and then a choice of sauces. I always got the largest, a Grunter, with Haggis and BBQ sauce. It was, beyond a doubt, the best pulled pork sandwich that I’ve ever had (hence why I went back so many times!). This was Pip’s first time to Oink and she was delighted as well. After lunch, I walked with her back to Parliament, where we had to finally say goodbye. It had been wonderful getting to see her and Stephen so much during my time in Edinburgh – we are all looking forward to the next time we can hang out!
I decided to tour the Palace of Holyroodhouse, which is the Queen’s residence when she is in Edinburgh. I had not previously visited the palace and decided that it would be a great way to spend the afternoon. It was a self-guided tour with an audio guide that would explain the different rooms. The state rooms were quite impressive, but it was the rooms belonging to Mary, Queen of Scots that were the highlight of the tour. These rooms were where he second husband murdered someone in front of her, which began the road to her eventual fall from power.
That night and the next night I spent hanging out with Kevin, geeking out and playing video games (as usual). On the 28th I grabbed us sandwiches from Oink for dinner before catching the tram out to meet him (yes, my fifth time now at Oink). Kevin hadn’t heard of Oink before, but he too was blown away by the delicious food! Kevin played several wonderfully funny videos from YouTube for me, the best being “Llamas with Hats” about a homicidal, insane llama and his friend.
We snapped a couple of pictures that last night before we headed back over to the tram, singing the song “La bidi dba bidi bum” on the way (the song had become almost our theme for the entire time in Edinburgh; it was always stuck in our heads!). It was sad to have to say goodbye to Kevin, but I knew that we would see one another again sometime soon.
I present the theme for February 2017, "La bidi dba bidi bum"...