Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Day 7: Edinburgh
Well now. My week in London has ended and I have arrived in Scotland.

The past few days in London were lovely. Monday night I forwent swing dancing and went out to dinner with John instead. This was mostly in the interest of my feet who are entirely displeased that I should suddenly choose to start using them far more often.

On Tuesday I took an extended trip out to the London Wetland Centre. On the way I stopped in Leicster Square to see about maybe getting theatre tickets, because being in London and not seeing a show = -10,000 culture points. I managed to snag the very last ticket for As You Like It. It was cheap -- £15 – and it was getting wild reviews. Alas, having such a ticket meant I was set in the very back of the theatre – past the nosebleed section and into the back corner of the rafters. But hell, a ticket! For a show! For cheaper than most other shows!

I then found the train, got on the Bakerloo line, went to Waterloo, and took the National Rail to Barnes. Luckily enough for me there were plenty of signs as to how to get to the Wetland Centre, but inexplicably seemed to lead through the woods. I followed a lovely path through meadows and trees – I picked a fine day to go traveling. Through streets and behind houses I finally managed to find the place, at which point I stopped at a Starbucks (I’m so ashamed) and got a fruit-style beverage and chocolate croissant (mmm, breakfast AND lunch).

I got asked for directions while I was on my walk. And I am inclined to say that this means I have been mistaken for a native, to which I say HA! As that is, to me, a mark of long-term travel success.

The Wetland Centre is beautiful. It’s interconnecting ponds and creeks that lead around 105 acres. There are paths all through it, splitting into numerous directions towards some imitation environment – islands (no telling which ones, though), wetlands (naturally), Siberia, North America (ooh, look, a pigeon!), and the like. And it seems, with the gates into each section and the signs painted with native animals and birds that they would have, say, penguins or mongooses in various cadges somewhere. Mais non. Lots of bird varieties, all of them native.

But a delightful walk none the less. And the walk home somehow managed to seem shorter than the walk there. A vast improvement since my feet, as I said before, were not totally keen on this whose “being used” thing.

Made it home then dashed out quickly for the play. Misjudged how long it would take, but got showed in despite my three-or-four minute tardiness. The usher told me to find a seat when I could see, but I couldn't see anything free. Finally I found what may or may not have been a seat. It was cushioned and no one shooed me away during intermission so I figured I was okay.

The show was fantastic, by the way. But it's London theatre, so of course it was.

Woke up early this morning with the plan to go out to breakfast with John. We didn't end up having enough time so we threw down some coffee/tea and dashed out. I had plenty of time to kill at the station so I did. Bought some food and waited in line. Then hopped on the train.

I had these grand plans for writing while on the train. Get another entry in so I could update when I found some internet. I found that I had absolutely no desire to do that, though, when the time came to it. Decided instead to do some Sudoku, the puzzle craze that, apparently, is sweeping the nation. According, of course, to all the Sudoku books. I had my doubts when Brendan told me about it, but it's actually rather fun. As fun as math gets, anyway.

The trip was irrationally gorgeous. The countryside was bright and fresh, and the farmhouses were all old and romantic. If you've flown over farmland then you know what it looks like, but it's very different when you're speeding along next to it. You can still see the mosaic patterns of green, gold, turquoise and striped variations interspersed with deep green trees and red and white buildings. Just glorious.

And my jaw dropped when I saw the ocean. Fields leading up to rocky cliffs dropping into deep blue water.

I wanted to take pictures of all this, mind you. Documentation of all the beauty that I really don't have words for, but alas, my camera hates me. Or possibly the landscape, but I'm betting the former.

You see, it takes a good second in between hitting the shutter and the camera taking the picture. This means that whatever you meant to take a picture of could be long gone before the camera decides it's going to do something about it. For me it meant that every single time I tried to take a photo some trees would jump in front of the camera and shout "SURPRISE!"

And so I would put the camera away, resigned to not being able to get a good shot. But then something incredible would come up and I'd have to catch it, and I'd be all ready and then TREES and the shot would be ruined.

I got a few photos, but haven't looked at them yet, so don't get your hopes up.

I liked being on the train. It meant I could be In Europe and not have to be Doing Something. I feel like if I'm going to be here then any moment not doing Something Culturally Satisfying is a moment wasted. I know full well that's ridiculous and I need time to myself, but still! I hate when someone asks, after learning that you were in London, whether you went to Buckingham Palace, and isn't it the most glorious place and did you see the jewels??

That isn't a fair example because I could spend a year in London and happily avoid anything involving the Royals. But you know what I mean -- the aghast, piteous looks when you reveal that you didn't end up getting to go to Tate Modern or the Globe Theatre. I am happy with the things I did and saw, though, so no big worries there.

I got into Edinburgh and found my hotel. Called my parents and let them know where I was and that I am still, indeed, safe. Called Stephanie, who promised to send me out her information. And I decided to take a shower. Sensible, easy, relaxing, yes? Ho ho ho, I say.

First I spent ten minutes trying to find out how to turn on the towel warmer, because hello warm towels and also dry underwear after I wash it. I have to say, the towel warmer is one of the more brilliant inventions. I put it up there with penicillan and the oven mitt. Finally I found the switch, which is on the outside of the bathroom, about a foot off the floor.

Chuh, duh, Emily.

Then I tried to turn the shower on. Turned the knob. Nothing. Turned it the other way. Nothing. Turned the temperature knob. Nothing. Looked around. No ideas. I started searching for a switch, a pull cord, something. John's shower requires a pull cord, maybe this was the same. Nothing. I checked in the closet. Nothing. Flicked switches. Nothing. Turned the lights off (maybe you can only have so much electricity going to your room at one time?). Nothing. Turned the knobs again. Nothing. Turned them the other way. Nothing. Moved the shower curtain and turned the knobs. Nothing. Flushed the toilet. There was indeed water coming to the room. Turned the knobs. Nothing. Flicked the light switch over the sink (it has a pull cord AND a switch). Nothing.

I did all of those things at least twice before putting my clothes back on and asking at the front desk. It's a little stiff, she said, turn the knob a little harder. I would've sworn I did that, but thanked her anyway. She said she'd send someone over just in case.

Went back. Turned the knob hard enough to give me an instant bout of tennis elbow, and it worked.

Stupid shower.

Got dressed (all of a sudden it's gone from mid-fall to early winter) and went off to find dinner. Stopped in a nice-looking pub not far from my hotel and got a Guinness and some penne pasta with garlic-cream sauce and veggies. Mmm. Would've gotten dessert, too, but by the time I tried to order they'd closed the kitchen.

What's with the closing of everything so early? After 8pm you can go clubbing or drinking or you can go home. There's just nothing else open. Silly Scots.

I thought I'd go for a little walk, maybe find some dessert, but went for ten minutes and decided I didn't care that much so came back to my room. I'd asked about internet, and there is wireless internet at this hotel, I just have to be in the lobby to access it. I grabbed my computer and started fussing about the internet until my power was mostly gone, so have returned to my room to finish up.

Stephanie said she was getting in on the 15th (tomorrow, for those of you following along), but I feel like she might be lying. I think what she meant to say was that she's getting in on the 16th, because she leaves on the 15th and it doesn't make sense for her to get here in the morning. What with time differences and all. So I think I'll book another hotel room for tomorrow night (the longer I can put off hostels the happier I think I'll be) and then meet Stephanie and her friends when they get here.

And now I'm going to get a drink from the hotel bar and hang out a bit. Adios! I mean, och aye.

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