Wandering – from London to Edinburgh

Although this might seem like a fairly obvious statement, travelling abroad with no conversion van with a convenient bed in the back is somewhat more involved and daunting than being able to have your entire house with you as you go. Especially if you’re overseas in a country that you’ve not visited previously.

It’s taken a bit to get my bearing, but I’m feeling more confident and secure at this point. After splitting off from my friend JJ yesterday afternoon, I wandered about a bit, waiting for the rush hour crowds to die out before I finally picked my backpack up from Left Luggage and made my way from Victoria station to Kings Cross. There was no wifi anywhere in the train station that I could connect to, so that was a little troubling, but I pressed on. I figured that I’d be able to get online on the train.

I picked up a ticket to Edinbrough, not knowing what I’d encounter at the terminus. I had no hotel reservation, but was hoping to sort that out on the ride up – having been told that there was wifi on the trains. There was, but you had to pay for an allotment of time, and the only way you could do that? You had to have an internet connection. I tried several times to pay for a portion of time, so that I could at least get on, but by the time I’d entered in all my information, the internet had gone down, and I was therefore unable to actually make a connection to make a payment.

Maddening.

So, I watched a little Firefly, relaxed a bit and checked out some of the beautiful scenery, which finally faded out as the light dimmed. Uneventful trip – didn’t really chat with anybody. It was rush hour – nobody really looked interested in talking much. I arrived at the Edinburgh station at 11:30pm. Tired and a little out of sorts, I wandered through the station, looking for an information counter, but everything was shut down (which I wasn’t hugely surprised by, but I was a little rattled).

Still, no wifi to speak of. I then became a touch more rattled.

My brain engaged in a mild form of panic before I decided to make my way over to a taxi. The poor driver surely thought me insane, being that I’d shown up so late in a city that I’d not visited previously with no plans of where to stay for the night. Apparently the only hotels that he could take me to were 20 minutes away, which didn’t work for me since I wanted to be back at the station fairly early to get on another train to Inverness in the morning. I really wasn’t into the idea of paying for BOTH two taxi rides, AND a hotel room.

He suggested a hotel a block or so away, and I headed toward it. They were full up. At this point, the place in front of a large gate with warm air blowing through it started to seem appealing. Several people were crashed out in front of it in sleeping bags. ‘It MIGHT be comfortable…’, I found myself thinking.

I then considered walking around Edinbough for the rest of the night, more to explore than anything else. I walked back past the taxi stand and, as it turns out, less than a two minute walk in the other direction from the station, I found the Hostel that I ended up crashing at for the night. Since I was pretty exhausted, I simply headed up to my room instead of sitting in the bar for a few minutes.

The guy at the counter was very friendly and helpful, as well as efficient. The room was £19, which was a very reassuring price, considering I was doing all of this by the seat of my pants. Fortune favors the bold, apparently 🙂

I was only able to get a bed in a 4 person room with bunkbeds, and when I opened the door, the lights were out and everybody was asleep. I found an empty bed, upper bunk, with the help of the low light from my celphone, and started packing all my stuff in a pile at the end of the bed, where I could keep my feet by it to kick anybody in case they decided to go through my things while I was sleeping.

Sadly, I still couldn’t get on the wifi to let anybody know that I’d arrived safely, which was frustrating and a touch scary. Ah, internet. What the hell did we do for live-on-the-fly travelling arrangements without you?

I curled my arms around the pouch with my wallet, phone and passport in and tried to drop off to sleep. After a few unsuccessful minutes, I remembered the earplugs that I’d picked up earlier, and after putting them in, was able to finally drift off.

Two of the room occupants woke sometime around 4am, to the sounds of what was quite possibly the most garish and irritating alarm on earth. Which it took them FOREVER to first LOCATE, then turn the hell off. They then immediately turned the full lights on.

Argh, discourteous travelers. You’re not the only people in the frelling room.

It took them about a half hour to get themselves together before they finally took off, and then the room was in darkness again. I drifted back to sleep, eventually waking up a little after 9am.

I then got myself together then went down to the pub, where I was finally able to get online and post that I’d made it in one piece to Edinbrough, reassuring my friends back in the states who had worried about me a bit.

After screwing around online for a bit, I checked out, then went over to the station and caught the train to Inverness. The inital start was a bit quirky, as the train apparently ended up with mechanical issues, and we all had to rush over to another train on the platform next to us.

EXCITING. VIGOROUS.

Turns out that once I’d found a place to sit on the new train, I looked at my ticket again, and it said First Class.

Hey now. 🙂

I showed this to the cabin steward who said, indeed, that it was a First Class ticket. I then schlepped my stuff to a cozy First Class car with 10 seats and sat down across from a very nice older gentleman that I talked with on the train ride up. He explained that at times the railway sold First Class tickets cheaper than regular, simply to fill the carriages.

Yay, unexpected upgrade! Yay, better view of the landscape as it rushes by!

During the trip I had a lovely conversation with the gentleman about things to do whilst in Inverness, and we spoke about the differences between this country and the US and various other things. Great conversation. 🙂 Shortly after he departed, I listened to a little music and checked out the surrounding countryside. I’d been watching the scenery on and off while talking to my companion across the aisle, and it really made for a spectacular, gorgeous ride. The surrounding fields and mountains filled with heather and pine trees were just breathtaking.

I then conversed with a pair of lovely older women who were on their way to Inverness to visit a relative on a day trip. At some point on the train, I started writing this, but the Inverness stop came up quicker than I thought it would, so I packed everything up and headed out once the train reached the station.

I checked rental car prices, but £45 per day with a £600 deposit is OUTRAGEOUS, so I went outside the station and spotted a hotel on my left – The Royal Highland Hotel, just caddy-corner to the station itself.

I went inside, and got a strong feeling that I needed to stay the night here, and so I went ahead and rented a room for the night. I went to a co-op and picked up a small, quite delicious meat pie and some green beans (I hadn’t yet had breakfast, and there was nothing but sweet snacks and tea on the train up).

I then tried to take the bus to Culloden Battlefield, but it was too late, so I figured I’d check it out tomorrow morning before heading back to Edinbrough. I walked around the city for an hour or two, went down to the Ness River and sang to it, then came back to the hotel to get a shower.

Later that night, I wandered around a bit more, only to find myself entranced by the sound of a male voice drifting through the streets. I made my way to the pub at which he was singing, and stood at the door for a few songs before purchasing two of his CD’s. He then sang a Steve Earle song for me, and I waved and smiled to him before heading back to my room to eat a little dinner. (I’d visited the co-op again, and didn’t want to sit down in the pub and not order anything just to hear the guy sing – that seems like it would’ve been rude.)

I’m kinda fell in love with Inverness. It’s a gorgeous city that doesn’t feel as overwhelming as London did. It’s a really lovely change. 🙂

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