Eurotrip, part six: Gateway to Scotland

Love at first sight. They say it doesn’t happen often, that for some it may never happen at all, that it’s all just fodder for silly songs and poetry. But I can’t think of any other way to describe how I felt upon stepping off the train at Edinburgh station and into the sunlight of Scotland’s capital.

Like you read about!

Like you read about!

Of course, as my friend Becki later pointed out, the real misnomer in that sentence is the word “sunlight.” “I found Edinburgh far less charming after three days of solid rain,” she had commented after I’d posted the above photo on Facebook. Okay, so there’s a bit of luck involved in love as well. I almost didn’t even come here – with my business school networking in London complete, I’d stayed on an extra day to meet with Mitch, another Navy friend living in Europe, and was set to head back to Paris. However, I just wasn’t feeling like switching back to French (and putting away my “friendly” face) just yet, so instead of the airport I went to the train station. After a five-hour ride through the English countryside that gave way to coastal towns on the North Sea, here I am.

And what a ride it was! A bit long, but a nice change from the hassle of the airport. Plus the price of the train ticket turned out to be the same as it would have cost to fly, after accounting for transportation to either Stansted or Luton airport, both a ways out of London.

And what a ride it was! A bit long, but a nice change from the hassle of the airport. Plus the price of the train ticket turned out to be the same as it would have cost to fly, after accounting for transportation to either Stansted or Luton airport, both a ways out of London.

I had only booked a night’s stay, but upon arrival I’d immediately wished I’d made a longer reservation. Edinburgh is obviously not the same sprawling metropolis as London but it has many of the same comforts (great pubs, shopping) in addition to charms like bagpipers on the street corners.

Total ploy for the tourists, but hell - I'M a tourist!

It’s funny, my friends in Italy were complaining about being woken up by people playing accordions, while also acknowledging that’s what many tourists would love to happen. I suppose bagpipers in Scotland would be the same – annoying to the locals, but we silly tourists eat it up.

Oh yeah, and within an easy walk from my hotel is a huge freaking castle!

Awesome!

Edinburgh Castle is truly a marvel!

History nerd alert – it was so awesome to see a centuries-old castle with so much history, going back to before the takeover by Robert the Bruce (of Braveheart fame.) The Scotland crown jewls are there, along with a beautiful memorial to Scotland’s soldiers who died in the World Wars. The tickets were pricey (16 pounds) but so worth it, and once you’re inside you can get a guided tour by a Scot with a drole sense of humor (“…back in 1344, when England and France were engaged in their annual event called a ‘war,’…”) who will cheerfully inform you that the land across the water is not, in fact, America. Apparently someone had actually asked him this. Please, you guys, keep your kids in school.

Parts of the castle had been rebuilt over the years, but there are still some places that date back to the 1100s

Parts of the castle had been rebuilt over the years, but there are still some places that date back to the 1100s

So many cool medieval toys!

So many cool medieval toys!

The gate to the memorial, one of two places where they ask you not to take pictures. (The other being where the crown jewels are held, sadly.)

The gate to the memorial

A view of the city from the top of the wall

A view of the city from the top of the wall

If I’d had more time here, I would have made Chuck jealous by visiting the Scotch Whisky Experience. I’m not a scotch drinker at all, but apparently the tour includes a bunch of tastings and a barrel ride!

I hear it's quite the experience!

I hear it’s quite the experience!

It’s a fun city to walk around in, and the people are very friendly if difficult to understand at times (says the uncultured Yankee.) And as I said, I know the weather probably played a big factor, but being from Seattle I’m sure I would have enjoyed it even if it was raining. I would love to rent a car and go into the highlands, although there are day and overnight trips to famous sites like Loch Ness that leave from the city. I was sad to get on the plane back to Paris, as Scotland really does seem to possess something special.

I'll be back someday!

I’ll be back someday!

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