For some reason I had, as it turns out, the whimsical idea that my train to Edinburgh would be luxurious, or at worst comfortable.
For a Friday lunchtime departure, it was full, standing room only which indeed was the only option for some. Not all the way to Scotland, as it stopped in many counties; Derbyshire, South Yorkshire, West Yorkshire, North Yorkshire and Durham are the ones I recall.
The most exciting for me was the realisation that Newcastle wasn’t a northern myth but a real city, exactly as perpetuated on TV, bridge across the Tyne and everything. This was late afternoon on a fairly cool spring day but I did see a young woman wearing shorts and t-shirt on the platform although to be fair that wasn’t Newcastle but somewhere close by. In her defence, the sun was shining, more so in the north than in the Midlands I left behind as the train bought me ever closer to a new country. Well, a very old country but after all these years of loving the Scots, the tartan and most of all, the music scene, it’s all new to me.
But just like the first time I was driven into Connecticut and out of New York State, there was disappointingly no announcement upon entering Scotland. My only realisation that I was in Scotland is that the country appeared to be an open green land and in England we build wherever we can.
I knew my hotel was a few steps from the train station – I don’t just throw this together – and I was on the world famous Princess Street so guaranteed to a. find food and replenishments and b. find my way back.
This was the reason I didn’t fly; by the time I have got to and from the airport and the waiting at both ends, it just seemed a lot easier to walk out of my house and jump on train to bonny Scotland. I was going to decide on cost but it was roughly the same, plus getting the cost of getting to the airports, however, when I actually came to the train cost had come down by some 70%. Result!
I didn’t bother looking too carefully for the hotel so went past it and all the way to Marks and Spencer just to stroll in the gorgeous early evening sun before deciding I should really go and check in, lose the little case and then come out for exploration. It was only on approaching I recalled the receptionist telling me it was by the Disney Store. And that it will be covered in scaffolding due to external refurbishments. The Royal British Hotel is just as it sounds, old fashioned, British and cute, not luxurious but everything I need to rest and repair ready for a days’ writing target of 2000 words; the same as Stephen King according to my Twitter friend @marshawrites. I had already made a head start with over 700 words on the cramped train before I’d gone over the River Tyne so I was feeling optimistic.
I realised I should have bought my cardi as I came back out into the sunshine and went for walkabout to discover coffee shops and somewhere to eat. My Friday tradition is fish but I find that almost impossible when I’ve landed abroad and not had a chance to explore fish serving establishments. I came across a potential coffee shop overlooking a deep-set park and no less than three parked Aston Martins. Aston spotting is one of my favourite waste of times but I don’t recall ever seeing three in one day never mind in one short walk.
Next day I saw one on the move. If I see an Aston, it means I’m going to have a good day.
I did see a fish and chips place, not my favourite way to eat fish but needs must, but alas it was closed and although I meant to ask reception when I came out, there were a lot of people checking in and the lady that had checked me was not in evidence there so I decided on the mini Sainsbury’s I had spotted. If there’s nothing there, there’s always the McDonalds opposite but I did now begin to wonder if there was a Harry Ramsden’s in the shopping centre at the train station opposite as there appeared to be other down scale establishments. Next day I read there is.
Still I got a generous portion of hot chilli con carne, remembering this was my first hot meal of the day, of which 5 hours were spent immobile on a train and selected a bag full of treats and refreshments and got back in time for Ashes to Ashes. It’s all going well.
Saturday morning threatened rain so the brolly had to go in the bottom of the bag under my new teeny tiny Netbook bought especially for this inaugural book writing occasion.
As has been the case all this extremely busy week, I was exasperatingly awake before dawn but unlike the rest of the week, I got out of bed to look out of the window, realising my first impression of Edinburgh is correct; the city does remind me of Montreal.
Upon further research, they even divide it up into ‘old town’ and ‘new town’ with the other major part being ‘West End’ but I haven’t discovered that yet. Just like in Montreal, my hotel is on the southern most part of the new town, overlooking the old town, although this older town has many more old buildings, pretty much all of them are. It’s definitely feels like I’ve wondered back in time especially with the pedestrianised cobbled streets.
As a constant reminder that I’m in Scotland, apart from the local accent, men hunting (drinking) in packs and the whisky stores, there is a Scottish shop on every street. By Scottish I mean they sell kilts. Each one has loud traditional music as if that will entice you in although it sounded like Irish music to me. I reasoned its all Celtic, until I hear the bagpipes.
And then there’s the royal influence; the Royal Mile, the castle, the residence. I can only guess but my bet is it’s not the same in Glasgow. I’ll let you know when I get there and forward the verdict on which is the best Scottish city
Part 2 follows