So after being all these exotic places, I went back to York for only a short rest before heading North this time and into Scotland!
- The plane ride was thankfully much less eventful than the preflight. And I’ve never been more happy to hear the British accent than after being in France and Italy. Unfortunately, we still had to fill out a landing card and go through the non-EU customs after landing, which is such a pain because we were coming from an EU country to an EU country but our passports are still US no matter what. At least there’s comfort in knowing that that was the last time we’ll be flying anywhere until we’re on a plane heading for home-home.
- We went to take a train back for York and this was the only time we didn’t buy tickets in advance because the tickets were supposed to be relatively cheap and we could just buy them at the station. Just less paperwork to lose while traveling, you know? But, for some reason, the machines that were selling tickets only gave general tickets that were outrageously priced and the booth where the person should have been sitting was closed because it was 1am. So we knew there was a train going to York so we just got on without buying a ticket. It’s a perfectly normal thing to do on trains because the people that come and check your tickets will let you buy tickets from them if you don’t have one. And we knew that quite often they don’t even check at night/early morning. That the York station doesn’t have those ticket-scanning things that won’t let you into the station unless you scan your ticket. Something else is that the ticket-checkers often won’t wake people up to get them to check their tickets. Apparently, the ticket person had mercy on the group of girls who were sprawled out in their seats, contorting ourselves into awkward shapes to try to find some way to rest our heads and get some sleep. We don’t plan on doing something like that again, but we let ourselves have just that one.
- Now, when people say that people are too addicted to their phones and the internet, I will gladly accept the criticism. However, can I just say how much I love wifi?
29,000+ steps, 9+ miles, 13 floors (before midnight)
York Intermission 2
- The wifi at school pooped out halfway through, and I wasn’t sure what to do with my life. Have I mentioned how much I love wifi?
- However, I did need to get some things accomplished that weren’t internet related, like laundry and shoe shopping. My shoes when I first arrived at York were on their last lives. I literally superglued the fronts of my shoes together before going on this little trip. So it goes without saying that my shoes were in a sorry state. So I went shopping with Charnell which was fun. I got new shoes at an athletic clothing store that are technically hiking boots but whatever. With the way I treat my shoes it might be for the best. I got the cheapest pair and they were black and pink but whatever. Finding my shoe size was interesting because the box supposedly listed the U.S. shoe size next to the UK and EU size but it was way off. When I found shoes that fit me they ended up saying the American equivalent size was a 6.5 but I wear 7.5 or 8. Oh well. I have new shoes so that’s all that matters.
York Intermission 3/Travel/Edinburgh 1
- Traveling from this point on was just me, Sydney, and Mackenzie.
- I’ve realized that I’m only self-conscious of my accent in England. When I was in France and Italy, I didn’t care as much, but now as Sydney described it I feel I have to “conceal don’t feel, don’t let them know.” Let’s see if that continues once I’m in Scotland.
- So the train ride was beautiful. There were many points you can see the ocean.
- After arriving in Edinburgh station, I had a little embarrassing moment when I went to withdraw money. I guess I never realized that Scottish pounds and English pounds would look different. I thought pounds would be pounds though it wouldn’t make much sense for the money in Scotland to say “Bank of England” on it. I ended up asking one of the ladies working in the station if it was normal for the money to look that way and after she started to laugh I had all the answer I needed and wanted to just crawl into a hole for asking such a stupid question. In my defense, I thought I would have at least seen Scottish pounds at some point in the last months, but I guess I hadn’t. It was just a little embarrassing. I’ll play the stupid American card here if you don’t mind.
- Our first stop in Scotland was St. Giles cathedral. We also happened to wander in during “music time” or something. The band playing was called SINK and consisted of three guys playing an accordion, violin, and a soprano saxophone. Most of the stuff they played was super cerebral and artsy, but they did get to jamming a couple times though. They laughed at themselves too so it was fine. The guy with the violin played with wide eyes and his mouth partially open. The guy with the soprano sax acted like he was receiving his rhythm from another planet or something, and the accordion guy was the one who seemed like he had it the most together. It was a good, fun way to kill an hour while waiting for the time when our hostel would let us check in.
- Then we went by the Elephant House coffee shop that advertises itself as the “birthplace” of Harry Potter (in terrible Jokerman font no less). It turns out that it was actually where J. K. Rowling wrote some of the later Harry Potter books and she wrote most of the others in a different coffeehouse but the Elephant House bought the rights to “the ‘birthplace’ of Harry Potter” so I guess they can do what they want. Regardless, tourists walk by constantly to take pictures and it was super crowded inside. We still had time to kill so we went in and had some hot chocolate. Sydney and Mackenzie signed the walls of the bathroom which is apparently a thing to do—to leave notes for J. K. Rowling in the bathroom of this place. The poor lady.
- We then went to the Scottish National Museum, and it was fun because it had some more “adult” exhibits but most of it was geared toward kids with lots of hands-on things. Sydney and I attempted to play “Heart and Soul” on the two xylophones mounted to the walls. It was hard because the second xylophone was reversed going from high to low and it was confusing. It was fun to play around though.
- Also, the museum has this thing called a death clock. It was terrifying.
- Our hostel was nice, but it was interesting also because they make you take your shoes off in the entryway and wear slippers inside. So that was a thing. We were also in a 10 person mixed. It was an experience.
- We went to eat and many of the places to eat around were are closed because the UK loves to close down around 5pm. So we settled for another American restaurant—jokingly saying that we would pretend to be Canadian. The waitress was really nice. I got a burger and I don’t care what people say I love red meat. We also got “triple thick” milkshakes which passed as real milkshakes in my book! It’s no Steak ‘N’ Shake but it’s not the flavored milk abominations they try to pass off as milkshakes here in the UK. It was monumental.
- We went back to our hostel and no one was in our room yet except us so Sydney and I practiced our dances for the upcoming YSJ Cultural Event that Lucky Fish is participating in. We were missing our fellow Fishes.
- Later, we met Marco from Italy who is there with his friend to study English. The tag on Marco’s bed said he got there the 8th and was staying until the 18th. We were all really confused as to why someone would be staying so long in a hostel until he mentioned taking English classes, though I hope his school is paying for his hostel because that’s a long time.
- Sleeping that night was relatively peaceful considering how many people were in that room. People in hostels are generally more considerate than I expected.
12,000+ steps, 5+ miles, 11 floors
- The breakfast was the best we’ve had at a hostel. It was free and unlimited and I had four pieces of toast with Nutella on it. Bless the person who invented Nutella. It was glorious.
- We went to go on a free walking tour and it was an experience, let me tell you. Our tour guide looks like she popped off a tumblr page. She had a Lord of the Rings scarf, steampunk goggles resting on her wide-brimmed hat, a MLP keychain and pin, and she used a wooden sword as her flag that all tours have to make sure the group can see where the guide is going that she called the Sword of Awesome Called Ryan. She was hilarious, and it was probably the best guided tour I’ve been on. It was informative and funny. Props to her.
- Afterward, we went to eat at an Italian place because it wasn’t like we hadn’t had Italian food recently. If someone asked us if that place was authentic Italian I would say “yes” because they didn’t split our checks. It seemed the whole staff was actually Italian too so between our Italian roommates and the restaurant I guess we just couldn’t escape Italy no matter how hard we try. Although it does feel like a sort or revenge because they can’t grumble about speaking English to us in the UK.
- I know we couldn’t have seen all of the city but Edinburgh isn’t a very pretty city in my opinion. It was also only about as touristy as York which was strange after coming from huge cities like Venice and Paris. I felt sort of out of place because there weren’t nearly as many obvious tourists. However, there were also no peddlers so that was a relief but it makes me feel not as in tourist-mode. The only thing that was touristy were the tourist shops decked to the brim with plaid and the random people wearing kilts for no reason.
- We went by the Hollyrood palace and then hiked up Arthur’s Seat, which are the remains of a long-dormant volcano. You could see the whole city from up there.
- Scotland was very much the UK still. They said “cheers” though not as often. There were red phone boxes. The cabs were black. It doesn’t feel too much out of the norm.
- I could understand the Edinburgh accent with little trouble. I think I probably have a tougher time with the Northern English accent than I did with the accent in Edinburgh. The Edinburgh accent is flatter like my accent. I feel I don’t stand out as much here.
- We went shopping along the Royal Mile, and we stopped in this cool indoor market inside an old church where I got a box. Funny thing is the guy selling it looked like Jack Sparrow. No joke. He even had dreadlocks, a mustache, and two braids in his beard. He even talked like him too. The only thing was his hair was a little blond. And we certainly weren’t the only ones who thought that because we overheard these other guys pointing toward him. They were speaking another language, but we all understood the “Jack Sparrow” part. I wish I had gotten a picture. We plotted elaborate ways we could sneak a picture of him without seeming creepy, but we never implemented any of them. Anyway, Captain Sparrow claimed that the boxes were made out of pieces of ships/yachts that were shipwrecked near Scotland or made in Scotland or something. So I got a box from Jack Sparrow. Be jealous.
- We went back to the hostel later and checked out. This time we were talking with the guy who obviously owned the place. He was really nice. He let me print out my Skye hostel confirmation for free. He also called the taxi for us in the morning. I love how hostels will do stuff like that for you and how nice some people can be.
21,000+ steps, 8+ miles, 55 floors
Next: Isle of Skye