US and UK – Rainspotting (in Edinburgh) – Part Two


Looking toward Arthur's Seat from the northern side of the train line

Looking toward Arthur’s Seat from the northern side of the train line

Looking toward the medieval city, south of the train line

Looking toward the medieval city, south of the train line

Edinburgh seemed a pleasant dream little more than a week later, as I sat belatedly updating you, dear journal, while sitting on the Venice Beach Hostel’s smoking balcony overlooking Windward Avenue. Exactly as I had done more than two months earlier, albeit while wearing shorts and a t-shirt instead of jeans and a leather jacket. Like all happy dreams, it was difficult to remember while wandering lost through the thickening fog of having awoken from it.  It’s presently a Sunday.  I’d said goodbye to Sarah on Friday, before catching the train to London.  On Thursday I walked up Arthur’s Seat (a peak located at the top of a small mountain surrounded by Edinburgh).  Wednesday I woke up at Sarah’s house before being driven back to the hostel by her father and later that night scamming a free ticket to see Life of Pi at a dockside cinema she worked at.  Tuesday was Christmas Day, whose evening I spent with Sarah and her family and earlier that day missed the chance to walk up Arthur’s Seat with Stevie and the Thai Guy (I’ll come back to them).  On Christmas Eve I must have done little except go drinking with Stevie.  And by way of elimination, that means on Sunday I would have visited Edinburgh Castle, with its throngs of tourists – despite the time of year.  So, reflection achieved, I can continue from where I left off at the last post.  But first – and I’m not sure if this strange question referred to Los Angeles or Edinburgh: why have the books in this hostel’s common room bookshelf been replaced by stuffed animals?  It must have been in Venice Beach.  I wouldn’t have spent enough time in a common room in order to notice such a thing, unless it was possible to smoke in there (which you might be amazed to hear was the case at that particular Venice venue).  As to the answer, I can’t honestly remember asking anyone and probably got over it shortly after writing it down.

A very old cemetery - think graves dating before the 1700s - in the centre of the city

A very old cemetery – think graves dating before the 1700s – in the centre of the city

Looking from one cemetery to another

Looking from one cemetery to another

(Probably in Edinburgh: My God!  I had a near heart attack, dear journal, as I became convinced upon returning to my room with a six-pack of Budweiser and pack of Doublemint that I’d lost you, my friend and confidant those past not quite three months. You see, while partaking in whatever outside activity that took my fancy, in whatever city or country, I had maintained an arguably unwise habit of quite contentedly leaving you under whichever hostel bed’s pillow was mine at the time.  Not two days before my time with you in that trip’s context was over, I had discovered my bed had been turned over – which did not at first concern me.  That was, of course, until I looked for you in my locker, my bag, then under my pillow but could not find you.  Clearly, though, all was well and I did eventually find you tucked deep within my day-trip bag.  I would have mourned loss of the hundreds of photos I took across the US and UK, but loss of you, you hardy yet mistreated stack of bound paper, might have rendered me all but suicidal.)

Edinburgh Castle

Edinburgh Castle

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I’d only just seen Sarah the previous night, and was sure she’d be busy with work or the rest of her hometown life.  But as I sat at Starbucks – mentally giving Emma the finger – I decided it would have been folly to not invite her to visit Edinburgh Castle.  She told me she’d never visited it, despite from memory living in Edinburgh almost all her life.  Because I didn’t have time to wait for her reply, I sent her a Facebook message reading that I’d meet her outside the castle at 3pm and would wait 10 minutes just in case.  She didn’t turn up, and I read later upon re-entering a WiFi zone that she “would (have) if she could (have)”, but had to work.  Pity.  I’d rate it as marginally more interesting than the Tower of London – if only as a half-Scot whose fortunes and eventual existence might have been more closely tied with the fortress’s fate than that of its colonial tourist-trap like laying five or six hours to the south.  It was interesting and surprising to learn that it had been fought over (as I believe London’s hadn’t to any serious degree), and that I was wandering wonderingly and wonderfully through the actual site of medieval and perhaps even more recent battles.  Other than that, it was merely a location specific history lesson I could have gained just as well through reading a book or Wikipedia article and not bothering to venture into the cold rain – which increasingly prevented decent photographs as my afternoon at the castle wore on toward closing time.  I returned to the hostel afterward, I believe before heading out with Stevie the New Zealander for some cross-Tasman Sea Scottish beers.

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Outside the castle gates - presumably freezing bloody cold

Outside the castle gates – presumably freezing bloody cold

Some notes on the Edinburgh Central Youth Hostel I was staying at while in Scotland are worth observing.  First, it was part of the Hostelling International group – which I’d stay at almost exclusively since San Francisco, where I became a member.  Kind of a boring thing to do, I guess, but membership made stays cheaper and hanging around hostels unless savagely hungover was never my plan while on the road.  So it didn’t matter how “cool” they were.  Edinburgh’s definitely was anything but cool.  It was like the Switzerland of hostels.  Nowhere near as cool as San Fran, edgy as New Orleans, stuck up as Vancouver, seedy as Vegas, charming as Dublin or stylish as New York – the simplest and perhaps laziest way I can describe it is: boring.  Stevie had called it a “hostel factory”.  It in fact had apparently once been a bank, which it certainly looked and felt like.  Bland, bleak and utilitarian, its facilities were banally functional and staff were efficient to a fault.  I had to change rooms on the second night, because something in my room was supposedly broken, and notice of this change was delivered via a letter, in an envelope addressed to me and everything.  I later joked with a guy from Hong Kong sharing my next room, whose reading light was broken, that he should notify the hostel by letter.  Of course later on a quiet, slight but confident male staff member behind the counter explained to me the letter was used simply because he was not sure if I was in my room.  Makes sense.  They did a great breakfast there.  Huge, in fact, and complete with Scottish delicacy(?) haggis for only six pounds 50 pence.  (Embarrassingly, I’d remember only after spending time in London and Scotland that pounds were worth almost twice as much as (Aus) dollars.  Or is that half as much?  Either way, if something cost six pounds it then cost the equivalent of almost 12 dollars.  Oh well.  I probably had more fun being unconscious of the fact.)  Bathroom facilities were contained within rooms.  The common room was vast, with two TVs and plenty of seating – whenever massive groups of Malaysian students weren’t occupying it.  Negatively, WiFi was not complimentary and cost one pound per hour.  Positively, again, an Indian restaurant across the road – at which I again misjudged the value of the pound – had the best chicken Tikka Masala I’d ever eaten for about nine pounds.  I ate that one meal, from that one restaurant, during that one week, about seven times.

Well, I’ve surpassed 1000 words and the above paragraph is very large, so I’ll leave this post here.  Until next time, thanks for reading.

Looking down a castle barrel at the Winter Wonderland

Looking down a castle barrel at the Winter Wonderland

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