May 20, 2004
Bonnie Scotland! Land of bagpipes, the plaid, and whisky (Fun Fact: "Whisky" is a Scottish Gaelic word that means "water of life"). At 5 a.m., we packed up our belongings, kept the sunrise company as we took the AirLink to the airport, and said "Slan libh, mo bhaibini" to Dublin. Mode of transportation: Ryanair, Europe's Number One Budget airline. Since we are leaving Ireland, perhaps a limerick would be fitting here:
Ryanair is no frills.
Its price will result in low bills.
No breakfast, no lunch,
And your kidneys get punched,
So don't forget your pain pills.
Um. I guess that fourth line needs a little explanation. Like the US's Southwest or JetBlue, Ryanair is an inexpensive airline that is a bit less organized and a bit more uncomfortable than the major carriers. The air-sickness bags double as pre-printed envelopes to mail in your film for developing. The food and beverage service is administered thusly: you look above you, right there, right next to the air vents, for the pasted-on menu (sandwiches, sodas, mars bars) and when the flight attendant trundles by with her cart, you can pay for and claim your snacks. And, somehow, the seats are wedged in so tightly that every time a passenger, say the one right behind you, moves his long legs, another passenger, say yours truly, can feel knobby knees in her back for the entire 45 minute flight. Still, for a $27 flight (taxes and fees included), it's hard to complain. (And yet, if I try hard enough, I manage).
Brilliantly sunny Edinburgh greeted us warmly. We sneered at the passengers waiting for their luggage, got our return trip bus tickets (5 GBP - that's British Pounds (almost two to the dollar, ouch), not the Euro (even though the UK is part of the EU)), and got some cash (50 GBP to last both of us for three days). Fun Fact: The 5 pound note sports Robert Burns on the front and a vignette of a teeny weeny fieldmouse from Burns' "Ode to a Mouse" on the back. The bus wove its way into the center of Edinburgh and dropped us off at Waverly Train Station about half an hour later. New city map in hand, we walked up a steep, deserted curve and ten minutes later, we checked into the Travelodge on St. Mary's Street. It was 9 a.m. and our room would not be ready until 3 p.m., so we stored our bags and headed out in search of direly-needed coffee.
Taking our traditional giant steps, we stomped through Old Town and arrived at Elephant House cafe in just a few minutes. Right off of the George IV Bridge, this cafe has a great pachyderm-themed decor and ambiance, but surprisingly weak coffee and even worse sandwiches (insert ironic foreshadowing where our characters return to this place several times despite displeasure with the culinary fare). As we enjoyed the bright early morning sunshine streaming through the windows, we perused the various magazine articles taped to the walls. One blurb claimed that J.K. Rowling dreamt up Harry Potter in this very cafe. One proudly displayed review listed the city's best cafes (including, naturally, Elephant House) and mentioned Plaisir du Chocolate which appeared to be within walking distance. We crossed the bridge, strolled along the Royal Mile (a collection of streets, kind of like Copenhagen's Stroget, running from the Edinburgh Castle to Royal Palace of Holyroodhouse), and plopped down at the quaint French cafe for a tastier hit of caffeine.
I went to visit the cute-for-an-outhouse outhouse and when I returned, I saw Amelie warmly greeting a bunch of strangers. Turned out, it was the mother and father and some friends of the bride of the wedding in which Amelie was a bridesmaid and for which we came on this trip in the first place. From that moment on, we experienced the odd combination of visiting a foreign city but running into so many familiar people. Well, Amelie did. I was still just along for the ride and everything and everyone was new to me.
After a brief foray over the North Bridge and left on Princes Street, looking determinedly for and dreamily at tennis shoes, we returned to the beautiful and towering St. Giles Cathedral, The High Kirk of Edinburgh and the "mother church of Presbyterianism", to meet the rest of the wedding party for the rehearsal. Anxious about possibly missing the rehearsal, we grabbed a sad lunch of Walkers Sensations Sea Salt & Cracked Black Pepper Flavoured Crisps (not as good as it sounded, but presumably better than the Greek Kebab flavored ones or the Marmite Yeast Extract flavored ones)
and Scotland's very own Irn Bru (a toxic orange-colored soda that outsells Coca-Cola, is wildly popular in Russia, and leaves a weird aftertaste) and sat outside of the cathedral to wait for the others. As the meeting time came and passed, I, allegedly, tried to drive Amelie slowly mad by insinuating that we were in the wrong place at the wrong time in the wrong clothes. But, we weren't and we weren't and we weren't and we lived happily ever after.
I watched the rehearsal from the back of the Cathedral, and afterwards, we returned to the hotel and checked into our room. Amelie napped while I gleefully watched Scottish television - anything and everything would do. In the evening, we parted ways. The rest of Amelie's evening was spent dressing up for a delicious, fancy rehearsal dinner among friends, colorful and exotic peacocks, and some Brits who were happy to discuss the finer points of "The Office". My evening, on the other hand and in sharp contrast, was spent choking down a bad chicken curry dish from Bay of Bengal (tryna help a brotha out and this is what you get), watching a session of Scottish Parliament (if I could marry the Scottish accent, I would), and flooding the bathroom whilst trying to shower in the world's shallowest shower stall. You may weep for meeeeee . . . now.
Next up: dormant volcanos, cliff-perching castles, and the world's end.