Although exploring London and England is the focus of this summer’s adventure, I needed a wee bit of Scottish flavour to add to the mix, so I decided to head north. I debated whether to visit Edinburgh, where I’d been during university days, or Glasgow, which I’d never seen, but two things tipped the scales in favour of the capital: it is home to the Mother of All Fringe (theatre) Festivals and I saw a day tour that promised me a visit to Hadrian’s Wall. Since I usually volunteer at the Fringe in Toronto and have been wanting a glimpse of this ancient wall, it was suddenly no contest. I booked lodgings at the University of Edinburgh and bought a train ticket and I was off.
I boarded the train at King’s Cross and sat in my reserved seat. Given that Edinburgh hosts various festivals throughout August, I didn’t want to have to worry about fighting for a seat. I opted for a window at one of the tables that seat two pairs facing each other. For the first hour, I had the whole area to myself and could watch the scenery and read in silence. That all came to a crashing halt in Peterborough (Yes, the Brits had the name first, Ontario!)
All of a sudden, my pod and the one across the aisle were filled with young teachers heading home to Edinburgh from a stint teaching high schoolers from abroad at a language program in Cambridge. Nor did they come empty-handed! A case of beer, a couple of bottles of prosecco and lots of snacks appeared with them. For much of the trip, nine of them crammed into the seven available seats. It could have been horrible, but it was actually adorable. They were chatty, but not particularly loud, and they were friendly. In between talking to each other and checking their emails and texts, they sang along with the tunes on one phone or other. Listening to their accents was a real treat. It was quite the welcome to Scotland!
Once I arrived, I decided to try to follow the instructions for taking transit to the university, rather than take a cab. Of course, I only had bus numbers and a general location, so I wandered Princes Street for a good 20 minutes before finding a stop that had the bus I wanted. It came fairly quickly, but one drawback – it didn’t have a list of stops, so I had no idea how far I had to go. The lovely young man sitting next to me tried to help me with his iPhone, and eventually, a woman I’d chatted with at the bus stop sat down near me and said she knew the route. Once I got off, some darling high school students from Kentucky (!) took me in hand, since they, too, were staying in the residences. So, I was able to check into my room – very much like the one in Cambridge – and wander downtown before my first Fringe show that evening.
Edinburgh is full of amazing architecture. Every time I turn a corner, another wonderful building is staring me in the face. Lots of Gothic churches, a monument to the novelist, Walter Scott, the Edinburgh Castle, the national museums, the library … I could go on and on. I think another trip is indicated, since much of my time here is bound up with the Fringe Festival. Perhaps next year …