Pippin: I didn’t think it would end this way.
Gandalf: End? No, the journey doesn’t end here. Death is just another path, one that we all must take. The grey rain-curtain of this world rolls back, and all turns to silver glass, and then you see it.
Pippin: What? Gandalf? See what?
Gandalf: White shores, and beyond, a far green country under a swift sunrise.
Pippin: Well, that isn’t so bad.
Gandalf: No. No, it isn’t
Tolkien must have been thinking about Scotland when he wrote this.
Before we went to Scotland I thought that I knew what it would be like. I had seen many movies and looked through many blogs and photo journals preparing for the trip. After we arrived I quickly came to realize that there is no photograph, no movie nothing that can capture the beauty of that place that we love. It can’t be caught. You have to go and be there.
After we woke ourselves up and made sure everything was packed securely in our bags we walked down to the same café we had breakfast in the day before. This time we got cake. 🙂
We ate a leisurely breakfast and then walked to the Visit Scotland tourist information center. While Chris was buying some stamps I spent some time looking through all the books. There were so many I wanted so I just took some photos of them to order when we got home.
By the way, the Scottish tourism people have got it going on. Check out their website at Visit Scotland.
Island hopping? Yes, I do like.
We walked down to the Station Square bus stop in Oban where we would pick up our bus to Edinburgh. Since we had that Scotland Explorer bus pass we were able to just hop right on. While we were waiting for the bus I stepped into a Costa to use the restroom. It was like a Panera and a Starbucks had a baby. I really liked the Costa and I pray they bring them here.
There were several other travelers like us there. There were two women in their twenties – one of them had a large paperback book propped up on her suitcase and was reading. I tried to sneakily look at what the book was- Jason Bourne trilogy all in one book. Amazon UK sells it. After a minute a young fellow from Romania walked up and asked us if this was the correct spot to catch the bus. We answered telling him we hoped so and struck up a conversation with him. He said he had been there on a bike expedition that had ‘failed completely’. He was quite upset about it. He showed us the huge scabbed over area on his arm from a bike crash, he told us about getting water poisoning and being sick out there camping and then he told us what finally did him in- the midges. He said they were so bad he couldn’t even eat a sandwich without being swarmed. So not water poisoning nor did the huge gash on his arm stop him. It was these little midges. We weren’t really sure what midges were – Scottish mosquitos? According to Google a midge is a small two-winged fly often seen in swarms near water. Some do not bite, but many are blood-sucking pests much like a mosquito.
View from the bus stop. Not bad, yeah?
We sat next to him and noticed that he ate all the way to Edinburgh – he just kept pulling out apples and sandwiches. I eyed him sideways throughout the trip wondering ‘Could we do that?’ This was a common theme on the trip. I would see someone that I felt was more ‘adventurous’ than myself and set new goals. New ideas were constantly forming in my head about what could be. What we could become.
Beautiful windmills!! I will take these over huge billboards any day.
It took us about two and a half hours on the bus from Oban to Edinburgh. It was a nice relaxing journey-the first half through towns and the second half on interstate. In Scotland you won’t see any billboards. There weren’t any abandoned houses or old buildings where a Walmart used to be. There wasn’t any trash on the side of the road. The drive to Edinburgh was clean and fast. When I was going through our images from this day I found a screen shot I made of a blow-out salon and I remember I was daydreaming about smooth hair. I had started looking up places to get my hair done when we made it to London. At this point my hair was a mess of straw. All of the wind and sand and salt had done some damage. All I wanted was to have someone wash and blow dry my hair out a la Kate Middleton.
We arrived in Edinburgh and walked off the bus at the Edinburgh bus station. Our plan was to get onto another city bus and take that as close to our B&B as we could get. We stopped off at the visitor’s desk for a map and some directions. This guy wasn’t as friendly as the woman in Glasgow and his accent was so heavy I couldn’t understand much of what he was saying. But we got our map and headed out looking for the correct bus stop. See, there are bus stops all over but all the buses are headed in different directions so you have to find the one going to your area in the correct direction. None of the little bus stop areas we found had any signs on them! We came across another fellow walking on the sidewalk and he said a bunch of stuff to us very encouragingly to help us find our stop and ended it with saying “It’ll be grand”. I think that was the only thing he said that I could really understand.
We walked back and forth on that road for a while and when I was about to lose it Chris said why don’t we just get a taxi. A taxi!!! Yes!! So we walked back to the bus station to find the taxi area and got into a wonderful taxi.
I cannot tell you how happy I was when we saw the taxi driver. She was a woman maybe in her 40’s. She had on the cutest outfit- a dress with tights, she was wearing glasses and was just so friendly. I was so surprised at how well dressed the taxi drivers on this trip were. All throughout our trip they were wearing suits and dresses. She was a bit easier to understand than the bus station guy and after figuring out where our B&B was located she took off. Holy Moly she drove like a pro- navigating those tiny roads with huge buses, and people walking everywhere, lanes closing and shifting. We noticed right away that Edinburgh was not the dark, gloomy, closed in place we always thought it would be. It was stunning. It was a sunny day so I’m sure that helped; but the buildings were clean and there were huge patches of green everywhere – huge areas of green grass, huge green trees and beautiful architecture like I’d never seen in real life before.
And then as we were driving we drove past this sign.
Now, this attack happened on June 12th- just two days before we left for the UK.
It’s hard to explain my feelings at that moment -and still when I look at this photo now- and I know they are all jumbled up with the emotions I had going into this trip. We had seen other, smaller, signs like this around and about but this one brought tears to my eyes and I found myself hiding my eyes behind my sunglasses and sniffling. To me, seeing that sign felt like a warm welcome from Edinburgh. And the furthest I’ve ever been away from home I felt just how small our world really is and how connected and close we are to each other. It’s like when you are out somewhere and see someone you love when you weren’t expecting it. Do you know that feeling? If the terrorists succeed then we will be isolated from each other. We won’t know how wildly beautiful Scotland is, we won’t know how most all people are good, our fear will keep us to ourselves.
We drove through central Edinburgh out to a little outer area where our B&B was. It was a small little village right on the outside of town.
I’m not sure if you guys have ever really thought about it like this; but Edinburgh is a seaside town. Seagulls live there. It’s an island! This is another thing that I logically knew- the UK is an island – but until we were actually there I didn’t fully understand.
We didn’t notice all the things right away of course but there was a bus stop to hop onto and get into the city within minutes, a laundry mat, a school, a Chinese place, an Indian place, a coffee shop and an amazing market all within blocks of our B&B. For the days we were there it was like we were living there and we fell in love with it. Imagine finishing dinner at a delicious Indian place and taking a three minute bus ride back to your house. And then imagine wanting some snacks and walking two blocks down to a little market where they sell everything from fresh cheeses and wine to frozen pizzas. It was like a mini Fresh Market. It felt so good to walk like that. Our whole bodies felt better, our tummies settled well and our legs felt strong and I could even breathe better. This was a whole different way to live and it was fantastic.
Anyways, back to checking into our B&B. The taxi driver slowed down a bit once we got out into these neighborhoods. I kept looking for street signs and they are there – but they are designed to be part of the sidewalk area. So instead of an actual sign sticking out you might see a tiled area on the brick wall with the name of the street or area on it.
Photo from Googlemaps!
We stayed at the Caledonian Guesthouse on Granville Terrace. The B&B looked just like a townhouse might. We got our luggage out said a reluctant goodbye to our taxi driver and went to sign in. It was super quick just like all our other bed and breakfasts. We were given our keys and walked up the stairs to the third floor and into our room. It was a great little room with a wonderful view. The bathroom was the smallest yet – It was just large enough for me to stand in with the door closed. Chris called it a ‘water closet’. The Wi-Fi was terrible in the place. There was a young woman working at the desk – a college student who came home from Glasgow every summer to work in the B&B- whose family lived just down the street. She was very helpful and gave us lots of information about the area and helped us with crucial things like ordering pizza and finding good Indian food. She said the Wi-Fi was bad up on the third floor because the house was old and built so solidly. She said we were welcome to come down to the first floor and hang out to use our phones.
By this point on our trip I had established a pretty solid routine for making each new place feel like home. We had always heard people talk about staying in one spot longer to really get the feel for it instead of running from place to place. We chose the running option. We found the hardest part about this plan was the packing up every other day and the constant onset of ‘New’. We were OK with the feeling that we didn’t have enough time – we knew there was never going to be enough time. But we did struggle with so much newness all at once.
So to help myself settle the first thing I did in each new place was set my eye drops, chap stick, lotion and book on the table next to my side of the bed, stack up any pillows to support my neck and fold back the bed sheets. This little area of any room we were in then became my little haven; my secure place amongst all the new sounds, smells, sights and people- things that are normally overwhelming for me.
We spent a moment settling in and I called my Mom. I was still feeling really emotional from that sign we saw on our drive in and I felt a real jolt from leaving the country life we were becoming used to and coming into a city like Edinburgh. I was feeling my sensitive self taking over. She knew right away that something was off and maybe I was a little homesick and we talked for a good long time- me sitting in a comfy little chair in the corner of the room feeling the breeze come in from the window in Edinburgh and her across the ocean in East Tennessee probably in a corner of her own at the hospital she works in – and I felt better. A few of my close friends have lost their mothers over the past year and I remember to be grateful for these moments.
Slowly that same itch to get outside, stretch our legs and see what was out there came back and we took off walking towards an Indian place we found online- Indian Lounge Restaurant on Rose Street. It was a great walk and we loved seeing Edinburgh like this; on foot. We walked through many different areas – first the neighborhood our room was in, then a more crowded business type area with lots of people walking home from work and then past an amazing canal with lots of boats and finally through a more touristy area near the castle. We did this whole walk using Chris’s iphone maps that he downloaded before we left. It was a great GPS tool and if we decided to veer off to see something it would recalculate a route for us.
I ordered Vegetable Korma and Chris got Chicken Nentara. In the UK when you order Indian food it doesn’t come with rice; you order it separately. We got two different kinds of rice and some garlic naan to go with our dishes. This was way too much food and we hardly made a dent in it.
The view from Rose St. and the Indian place – a Costa and a castle! 🙂
After we ate we started walking back to the guesthouse. I really loved seeing what the women were wearing – almost all of them had on a long sleeved dress with black tights and some kind of ankle boots. I noticed the next day-which was much warmer – they had on the same outfit minus the tights. They also almost all wore their hair up in a high pony tail. I’m not a very fashionable person but it was still really interesting to see what people wore in the different places.
A black cab! And check out the bags holding down the sign. It was windy!!!
We were starting to feel pretty tired on our way back to the guest house. A scene from the movie French Kiss with Meg Ryan popped into my head as we were gazing up at the buildings and checking the GPS on the phone and asking ourselves if maybe we should have turned back there.
This pretty accurately shows how we were feeling.
The bottoms of my feet hurt the worst and during the first city walking days I had some serious pain. I ended up putting my hiking shoes back on because they were so much easier to walk in. It felt like we walked the whole city while we were on this trip and we never ended up in a place where we felt unsafe.
It was a struggle and I wasn’t too happy about it at the time but eventually we made our way back to the guesthouse. There was a table in the hallway to sign up for breakfast the next morning and we filled it in and trudged up the stairs and into our room. I went to take a shower, got in there and yelled for Chris to come help me. I couldn’t figure out how to turn it on. The shower was about the size of a phone booth. It had a contraption on the side of the wall with multiple dials and switches. You had to turn the shower on by pushing a button and then use the little dials-like dials on a stove- to make it the right temperature. Sorry I didn’t get a photo of that guys. Once we got it figured out I took my shower, put on my jammies and finished my nighttime ritual of discussing the next day’s events and reading a few chapters in my book. I really think this ritual helped calm me down at night and I never had any problems sleeping. Or maybe it was all the walking. 😉
PS. I did some research and Oban is on the National Cycle Network in Scotland. You can bike from Campbeltown all the way up through Oban to Ft. William. Check out this website for more info if you are interested! I think it would be pretty cool to combine a biking trip with a ferry pass.