Wednesday, August 25, 2010
July 10: The Road to Edinburgh
Goodbye beautiful Isle of Skye.
Further along the way we pulled over, seeing a hand-painted sign for local pottery. We found a small shop selling locally made crafts, and while we appreciated them all, we left having only purchased some of the tastiest cheese scones we've ever had. Apparently the ones we had were that day's special, loaded up with extra goodness like basil, onions, feta, and paprika.
Now I used to have no trouble staying awake in my younger days, as old and decrepit as that saying makes me feel. I was a night owl all through my school age years, studying or writing until the sun was nearly ready to rise again, which often meant sleeping until 2 the next day, to my father's disappointment (he didn't agree with such wasteful use of time). I could road trip with friends all day and all night, throwing back coffee or Diet Coke to keep my reflexes in check, and staying up to keep another driver company was just as easy.
It's only been within the last couple of years that, especially if I'm not the one driving, given more than a thirty minute car ride I'm struggling to keep my eyes open. It's the strangest thing, because when it happened, it happened as suddenly as I often conk out on the road, poor Chris. It doesn't get much better when I'm the one driving, either, I'm afraid. I'm turning the air down, the volume up, and shaking my head to perk up. What are the ravages of age doing to me?!
Hence, I quickly arrived to the city of Edinburgh, though I'm certain it was a longer trip for Chris, who drove. We arrived to the A-Haven in Leith, a small but gorgeous hotel run more like a Bed&Breakfast, we'd soon find out, and met our host, David Kay. After settling into our room up the beautiful wooden staircase on the uppermost floor, we called Johanna, the sister of a friend from our time living in Italy. We'd met Jo on one of her visits to Elise and generally saw her every visit after that; once even for Thanksgiving. Jo had moved to Edinburgh roughly nine months prior from Georgia - the country, not the state. This girl has always amazed me; she lived in Georgia for a couple of years with the Peace Corps right out of college, working with the oppressed women in one region to educate and better care for themselves. She had an apartment and a cat there, and that's where she met her current partner, Daniel. Daniel was the Scottish businessman, oozing capitalism who came through on business, surprise, and (with some resistance) swept this strong, intelligent, feminist woman off her feet. Now living together in one of the coolest cities I've visited, Jo is working at the university there to create and maintain international partnerships (right, Jo?) or something equally as interesting and stimulating as she pursues life on yet another continent. Over drinks and catch-up conversation later that evening, she joked that he's trying to win her over with his capitalist ways, and she's trying to save his soul.
Back in our room, we made plans to meet up for drinks and dinner with Jo downtown, then promptly flopped down and took a post-drive nap.
A couple hours later we were making our way down the Royal Mile, the High Street stretch connecting Edinburgh Castle to the Queen's royal residence in town, Holyrood Palace. We took in the shops, the mounds of deals on 'real' Scottish kilts and tartans lining the street, making mental note of things to revisit by camera the next day. By the time we even made it a third of the way down the Mile to the appointed meeting place, a pub near Jo's flat, it was nearly time to stop. So we did. We ordered a couple ciders and found some seats, enjoying one of the final games of the FIFA World Cup games between Uruguay and Germany. When Jo arrived it was hugs all around and more drinks while we caught up for a bit before dinner.
Ready for the next amazing meal? We dined at a restaurant called The Dogs, where an old apartment, or several of them had been adorned with dog art and the necessities of an excellent eatery. Chris and Jo went with the trusty pork belly, something I didn't expect to like but craved as soon as I tasted. I ordered a braised pork and tomato pie with mash ... mmmmmmm. Why don't we make more meat pies? They're delicious! The food was amazing, the wine, even better, and the time spent with Jo topping it all. It's fun to listen to someone's slowly changing accent, especially when that someone is incapable of pretension. Knowing someone in a foreign place makes visiting that place so much more enjoyable and personal, and Jo would be the first of two get-togethers planned for this trip. As a gradually-becoming-local, herself, she made us feel more welcome, though the Scottish are already pretty good at that. It was a nice way to begin our time in this great city, and we eagerly looked forward to our first full day of discovering Edinburgh.