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Month: May 2017

April 28, Edinburgh

My second day was a Friday and I had decided that I wanted to walk to Calton Hill to make sure I knew how to get there before the big Beltane festival. I had looked up the directions and I headed to the right from the flat, thinking it was the right way. In short, I was wrong. That morning was a little rough– I was wearing too many layers because it was actually warm, my backpack was needlessly heavy, and it was trash day so the streets smelled like garbage. I walked past the public library and thought of stopping but I was sweaty and developing a headache, with no water to speak of, so I turned down a neighborhood path instead, hoping to escape the smell. It worked and I got to see some beautiful gardens along the path. Eventually I decided to check my GPS– the wifi didn’t work, but it did show where I was. I saw that I had gone the wrong way and that I’d been making a giant circle back toward the flat, so I decided to go back for a while. I went up the four flights of stairs and peeled off my layers and laid on the bed.

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It took a while for me to feel cool again and for my headache to go away, so several hours later I ventured out again–this time in the right direction. I still managed to get lost since I wasn’t using GPS as I walked; I’d rather look at the architecture and people than have my nose in my phone, unless I can’t afford to get lost. I walked by the Royal Mile and discovered the art gallery where I only got to see half of the downstairs exhibit before they closed.

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After that I used the GPS to follow the path to Calton Hill. Even when I reached it I turned the wrong way down a street with a sign that said “Calton Hill.” I went up some stairs, thinking that was the way up, but it just led to some homes so I turned around and continued. The entrance was only another 200 feet ahead and the climb was steep. I was tired–the walk was supposed to be 44 minutes, but I’d been walking much longer than that since I detoured so many times. Upon reaching the top I took some photos and went to sit near a viewing point where I wrote in my journal until my hands were too numb from the wind and I put it away to take some photos.

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I was wandering the city when I stumbled upon the Elephant Cafe, where I’d been told to visit because J.K. Rowling used to write there. It was way too crowded so I moved on and I found the graveyard behind Greyfriar’s. Not only did it inspire J.K. Rowling, but I’d heard that there was a statue of a dog over a grave in there because after the dog’s owner had died and been buried his dog had laid on his grave every day for over another ten years. I searched the entire graveyard for the statue of a dog but I never found it and later I learned that the statue of the dog was actually on a fountain outside of the graveyard. There’s a long story about the dog and his owner posted on the wall outside of Greyfriar’s Pub. It was touching and I really enjoyed the story.
It was freezing and I decided to return to the flat. I was starting to get an idea of the layout, at least Princes Street and the Meadows and I could find my way home without an issue. I loved watching all the people out playing fetch with their dogs; in fact, I think I enjoyed dog watching more than people watching. I stopped to pet a friendly cat along the trail but it was distracted by a bird and ran off, so I moved on.

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I saw a red cafe with the name Victor Hugo. I was really excited and I stored it in my memory so I could visit again, but later I learned that it wasn’t actually named for the author, but that the two men who founded it were named Victor and Hugo. I lost interest and never made it there to take pictures.
I had read about a live Celtic music performance happening that night. I mapped the theater hall from Starbucks by the Meadows where I could get free wifi and I found my way there, where I paced a few times and debated whether or not I should spend 11 pounds to go listen to a musical group I wasn’t familiar with or that interested in. Eventually I decided that I’d rather wait because going alone might just make me feel lonely in the big city.

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As I was walking someone came up to me from behind and asked me about how I kept my hair so long. She was friendly and asked if I had any secrets. My initial response was that I didn’t have any and I think she was going to continue walking (I was slower than almost all the locals), but then I remembered that I do have a few rituals so I told her that I always end my showers with cold water on my hair because it can keep it from breaking when you brush it right afterwards. She complimented my rose quartz necklace and we were amicably walking next to each other. She had started to pull out headphones and then she turned to me and told me that she was planning to listen to music but that since we were walking at the same pace it would be more fun to talk. She told me that she was from France and had been living there since September. When she told me she was French, I said “Tres bien!” and she was impressed by my pronunciation so I told her that I learned a lot from Notre Dame de Paris and that I loved Victor Hugo. She was the one who told me about the cafe and how she learned it wasn’t actually named after the author– we were both disappointed by that revelation. We were getting on really well so we decided to go have a drink together at Montpelier’s, the bar that was across from my flat. Over drinks we learned that we had a lot in common, even that we both wanted to be mermaids. ^_^ It was a meeting of kindred spirits. She was running late for an engagement that she’d been walking to when we met, so we exchanged contact information and I learned that her name was Laura. We agreed to meet again and I went back to my flat, feeling drunk on life, though only tipsy from the hard cider I’d ordered.

I stopped by the grocery store on the way to the flat, since it was next door to the bar, and when I got upstairs I found two of my flatmates hosting what looked like a fancy dinner party. I was introduced and I said hello to the three visitors from South Africa, where the two flatmates were from, but I excused myself to my room where I ate my sandwich and whatever else it was that I had bought. It felt a little like what Harry must have felt like in Chamber of Secrets when he was supposed to be in his room, making no noise and pretending not to exist. I’m sure that they wouldn’t have cared if I had made noise, but I felt like I was intruding. They aren’t the ones renting out the room and I hadn’t even met the flatmate who was, so I had no concept of their relationship or how they felt about Airbnb guests. I think I’m going to ask in the future about whether or not there are flatmates since I didn’t even know there were any until right before my arrival when my host told me that he would be out of town. I’m developing my preferences and that’s a good thing. 🙂 All I ended up doing that night was researching more things to do in Edinburgh and looking at potential places to stay after I left. Also, that might have been the night that the person I’d arranged to leave a bag with while I hiked Hadrian’s Wall told me to find somewhere else to store it and I didn’t feel like doing anything after looking into other options and feeling overwhelmed by the suddenness of the request. Eventually he told me that he could work from home that day; the issue had been that he didn’t want me to “waste my day” waiting until he was home to drop it off and the other option was to arrive before 11 am, which would have meant getting a train before 9 am and I was not prepared to get up that early. Anyway, that’s neither here nor there since I’m writing this blog post from THE FUTURE! I make myself laugh, so I hope that you’re at least mildly entertained. 😉 That’s it for April 28th!

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April 27, Edinburgh

Hello again! It’s been a whirlwind of a trip so far and I’ve meant to blog many times, but when I get on the computer I find that looking for a place to stay is more pressing. I suppose that once I finalize the rest of my trip I’ll blog more frequently, but as of now I just have tonight (May 6) and the weekend (May 11 & 12) booked until May 19, so this trip is definitely an intuitive one. I’ll talk more about that later. 😉
This post is to tell you about my time in Edinburgh! As I told you in my last blog post, I arrived in the afternoon and after a wait that wasn’t too long I made it into the flat where I promptly showered, ate some cookies, and fell asleep for 14 hours. The next day no one seemed to be home when I got up (it was hard to tell sometimes because 2 of the flatmates had a large room with a couch as well so they mostly stayed in there unless they were in the kitchen) and it was my first day of not having anything to do in weeks, perhaps longer, so I was leisurely in my approach. I ate the other pack of cookies for breakfast and had some tea before venturing out in search of a grocery store. Little did I know that there was a grocery store right across the street if I’d gone to the right, but on the taxi ride to the place we’d come from the left and I had seen the beautiful green space so I went that way.

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I was breaking in my new boots for hiking Hadrian’s Wall– well, they weren’t exactly new. I bought them on clearance for $8 at Khol’s and had worn them on a short 2 mile walk and gotten awful blisters from where it was too tight on my heel. The night before my flight to the UK my boyfriend put some shoe stretchers in them at the tight spot and that seemed to have helped, otherwise I might have donated them to a secondhand shop by now.
Anyway, the shoes weren’t too bad and I walked about twenty minutes through the green space and then back to the main road of Bruntsfield, the Southern section of Edinburgh. It was much colder than anticipated, even though my sister (who lived in Manchester for 6 weeks during the summer) had warned me. I finally spotted a proper grocery store and I was excited to see all the strange brands and foods.

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I bought what I thought would last a few days and headed straight back to the flat where I started researching things to do in Edinburgh. I’d already done some research, but I didn’t know anyone and I was hoping that there might be a group of people also there for Beltane having a get together beforehand. There was no such luck, but I did discover a local board game meetup group so I joined the group and by then it was almost 6 pm and the group was starting so I mapped the walk on my phone and took screenshots so I could see it even without wifi and made my way.
I arrived at a small shop and the meetup group had said it was in the basement so I walked past the man buying something and started to head downstairs when the woman at the counter called me back. I hadn’t seen that there was a fee for the board game meetup, but it was only 2 pounds 50. I paid and followed the man who had been at the counter before me downstairs– it turns out he was also there for the board game night.
Everyone had already started by the time we got down there so I watched what people were playing and admired their massive game collection which was the width of three bookshelves, piled to the ceiling. I recognized a lot of them and then I went to the other part of the room and there were three more bookshelves back to back with the ones in the main area, also stacked to the ceiling with games. It was a wonderful place. I did interrupt a game when I walked around the bookshelves– the only other girls and a guy were playing a board game of something that’s traditionally a card game, but I can’t remember what. They all stopped what they were doing and stared at me until I told them I was just looking at the games. I suppose since they didn’t recognize me I was startling.
Anyway, once I walked around the bookshelves again the main table game had ended and they were dividing to play with those who had arrived late as I had. I joined a group of friendly looking guys and the most talkative one, who introduced himself as Goose, told me about the game we were going to play. “Not to perpetuate gaming stereotypes, but we’re playing a game about trading in the ancient world,” he told me. It was about pleasing the ancient Roman gods and I didn’t fully understand, even though he gave thorough instructions. I understood how to play, but not how to win, that is. It was fun and I got to joking with the four guys, only a few of whom I remember the names of. Callum, Goose, Ishmael, and I think Ian. Ian (if that was his name) was quiet.

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After that game we joined with some others and became a group of 9 to play Resistance. I was blue (a good guy) and we ended up winning, though we shouldn’t have because there was a spy on the final mission who threw a success just because he didn’t like the game. Anyway, that was the end of the meetup, but not the end of the night.
I think it was Ishmael who told me that some of them went to a pub nearby afterwards to play more and he invited me along, so I went with Ishmael, Goose, Collin, and either Aiden or Ian (not the same Ian). The pub wasn’t too far away and they all got the same beer except for Ishmael and I waited until the end to order. I told the bartender that I wasn’t much of a beer drinker but I didn’t want to get a mixed drink and she gave me two samples, one of each of the two beers my newfound friends had gotten. I ended up going with the majority and getting Giles beer, or whatever it was, and I joined the guys at a table where they taught me a game with coasters. It was a betting game, but with no money involved. We each had 3 coasters and we had to lay one down at our turn, then whoever wanted to could place a bet after everyone had laid down one. They would bet how many coasters they could pick up without getting the “skull” card, which was just a coaster with a different picture than the other main coasters. If you could pick them all up without getting a skull you won that round, and if you did get a skull then you had to either randomly loose a coaster or select it if you lost based on your own pile.

After that we played Incan Gold, which I liked much more. It was a risk game as well, but the risk was from exploring ancient ruins for treasure. There were five rounds and each card turned over was treasure, which was divided equally with the remainder left on the card, or an artifact (worth 10 gold) or something that would kill you if two of the same card were drawn. It was fun, especially the last round when I was ahead and I kept voting to stay in the ruin to explore more because I was pressuring them all to stay as well. We died by fire, but I won anyway. I recommend that game– it was quick, easy, and fun. I left when they did and we parted ways without exchanging information, but it was a great experience for my first day.