I traveled to the U.K. in June 2008 on a combination work/vacation trip. I posted about it on my old group blog Population Five. Now that I am writing more about traveling at Goth Panda, I am reposting these here for thematic unity, and also because reading them reminds me of the trip. I want to go back! Anyway, that explains some of the dated references.
If you had asked Mike a few weeks ago where he would most like to live out the rest of his days, he probably would have said somewhere in New England or Arizona. Now, I am fairly sure the answer would be Edinburgh.
I wasn’t sure at first if it made sense to take a day trip up to Scotland, because we had a packed schedule as it was, and the train takes four and a half hours. So in the best case scenario, which is how it ended up working, we caught the 8 a.m. train, arrived at 12:30 p.m., and walked around until the 5 p.m. train back. But everyone who has been to Scotland convinced me that I had to go, and I think in the end, everyone was glad we went. It was also nice that we saw the three parts of the island: England, Scotland, and Wales.
But I do think Wednesday was when our hectic pace began to catch up with us. I thought originally that we should leave a free day to catch up and relax, but there were so many things to see, and no one wanted to leave anything out. Next time I plan a trip like this, remind me to schedule in some down time, internet.
Since the trip to Scotland was the farthest journey, the train we were on was the nicest. It had both a restaurant car and a cafe car, and Mike and I splurged on breakfast in the restaurant car. There were linens and waitresses and everything. It also had the first-class seats, which were much more comfortable (in both the squooshy sense and the adjustable sense). I began to wonder if next time, we should upgrade to the first-class tickets for the Britrail passes. I guess when you are on the train as much as we were, it might make sense. In any case, we enjoyed our pancakes with blueberry sauce (Mike) and cheese omelet (me), as well as the latest in a long line of pots of tea, and watched the countryside speed by. I didn’t realize this before, but there are quite a few nuclear powerplants in Britain. I think we counted at least eight on the way. They are not so numerous, however, as the sheep.
The best part about traveling by train into Scotland is that somewhere near the border the landscape dramatically changes. We went from typically English rolling green pastures and farmland to suddenly evergreen trees, steep hills, heather and some bright yellow flower that I had never seen before. The colors — dark green, purple, and golden — were deep and vibrant, and I hope at least some of the photos Mike was shooting through the window turn out. He was the official train photographer.
Our first order of business in Edinburgh was to eat lunch. We had determined beforehand that we wanted to see Old Town rather than New Town. New Town (established in the 1700s) was rather too recent for us. So we headed to the Royal Mile, where we found a pub that advertised itself as family-owned, and stopped in.
The three of us that were female in the group had already agreed that Scottish accents were incredibly sexy, and this was only confirmed for us by the young bartender who took our orders at the pub. We discussed the possibility of offering him several pounds to stand at our table and talk. Mike was apparently offended by our enthusiasm, and later he asked me rather plaintively if I thought Scottish girls would think American accents were sexy. Besides the Scottish bartender, this place was notable for having the best fish and chips (for those who like them) of the entire trip. Apparently they used haddock instead of cod, or something like that, which resulted in superior tastiness.
We wandered down the Royal Mile afterwards, heading for Edinburgh Castle. Since I am following the site’s policy of not posting photos of us, you will not see here the picture I took of Mike in a kilt. If you want to see this picture, and I think you do, I can send it by email upon request. He did ask if he had to go commando under the kilt, and I said I thought that would be most authentic.
The Royal Mile
An alley off the Royal Mile
After a decent climb, we arrived at the Castle.
Looking down on Edinburgh from the Castle
After we finished storming the castle, we turned around to walk the Royal Mile down to its conclusion at Holyrood Palace. So far, we had had wonderful weather the entire time in the U.K., making a mockery of my insistence on buying a raincoat and waterproof shoes [an aside for Rob: I bought four pairs of Keens before embarking. I may be a convert.] The day we went to Bath set record high temperatures at 82 degrees. The only time it had rained was while we were at dinner on Saturday night, and it only rained while we were actually in the restaurant and had stopped by the time we left.
By the time we got to Holyrood, there were sprinkles of rain coming down. We didn’t really have enough time to tour inside, so I just got a quick photo.
Then we took a taxi back to the train station, and headed back to London. We did get delayed on the trip back from Edinburgh, so we arrived about twenty minutes later than we expected to. However, we did miss most of the rain by being on the train. On the trip back from Cardiff on Monday, the conductor reported that we were arriving a minute late when we pulled into Paddington, and apologized for the inconvenience.