Hi. Yes. We are still alive. Our plans these days really can’t be called “plans” at all. We’ve officially reached the second half of our journey, and the past few weeks have been a vast departure from the beginning. The time of planned Airbnbs, booked trains, and daily, even weekly itineraries has gone. I’ve become resourceful. If this trip is a wave, I’ve pulled myself under, and found safety in the depths.
Four days before takeoff we booked a plane to Scotland. Two days before, we booked a spare bedroom. We stayed in the home of two Polish expats and their baby daughter, Hanna. If the first part of our journey felt lonely, this half is marked by new friends. We explored the city of Edinburgh and for the first time there were large endless expanses of green and sea. The city itself looks like a natural wonder forged by grey stone. On our first day we hiked up to Arthur’s Seat. The supposed location of the fabled King Arthur and his round table. I realized then why so many stories of magic and the inexplicable come from Scotland: The green feels too green. The air feels too fresh. The buildings have too much history. It feels like magic is at work.
Speaking of magic, we of course had to see some of the inspiration for the Harry Potter novels. Several cafes have plaques claiming to be a location where JK Rowling wrote a chapter or so. One or two streets claim to be the inspiration for Diagon Alley (and I have to admit this does seem to be true). And character names dot the city from “Potter Row” on the University campus to “Thomas Riddell” in the Greyfriar’s Graveyard.
My favorite places were the pubs, not for the drinks (which you should get “extra cold”), but for the black walls, tartan armchairs, book lined shelves, and all that makes drinking feel like very serious business, which it is to many Scots.
Some say this is a reaction to the constant rainfall. If it is, well, it makes sense to me. Not even a raincoat and boots can do the trick when the clouds open up on you. Corey and I experienced this first hand as we walked to the nearby Cramond beach. By the time we arrived to the beach side cafe, we looked as if we’d taken a dip in the frigid sea. Some folks side eyed us and I’m sure they said to themselves, “Stupid tourists.” I headed back the next day in the sunshine to see the views the rain clouds had covered.
We spent our last night in Edinburgh drinking sleepy wine with our hosts in their garden, and they saw us off the next day when we left for the train station. It’s a quick ride to Glasgow. We managed to find a room there in a student apartment.
If I wasn’t paying attention in Glasgow, I could easily forget that I was in Scotland rather than back in my hometown of Richmond. The streets are eerily similar 3,000 odd miles away.
We boarded another bus several days later headed for the highland capital of Inverness. Luck would have it that we got connected with a family looking for dog-sitters while they went on a 10-day vacation.
That’s where we are currently. Enjoying the leisurely pace of the day. Taking the dogs on walks through Culloden woods. Searching for dolphins in the Moray Firth. Hearing the myths of the Loch Ness Monster.
We’ve decided to rent a car for a few days starting tomorrow, and for the first time in a while I’m making itineraries again. Fort William, Glen Coe, Highland games. If this trip is a wave, the world is an ocean, and the drops I’ve tasted are ceaselessly alluring.