the bruce

September 13th, 2016

It was hard to leave Karen and Ireland, but I felt a lot of peace that morning, rather than the anxiety I often feel as I’m about to go on to the next. The ferry and bus ride to Edinburgh was fun and easy and it was nice to ride through Scotland and see a little bit of the country. I will definitely have to go back to see the highlands, I know that already. I got into the city and contacted my couch surfing host and figured out how to get the bus to his neighborhood, which wasn’t far and it was lovely, Leith. It was right by the docks and I settled my stuff in and went out for a walk. It was a great walk along the river and it was fun to see a variety of boats in the docks and walk along the cobblestones. I was just amazed at all the old architecture everywhere, it was so cool everywhere I looked. There was craft beer at every place I passed by and it felt really hip. I stopped in a restaurant that looked good and was pleasantly surprised and how nice the bartender was and the staff in general. I had a few samples of the local beer and ordered a pint of one, along with some chicken liver pate that was delicious. I was pretty hungry after my ferry and bus ride and simple breakfast. It was nice to chat with my bartender and she told me she was in fashion and was dying to go to New York, but it was difficult to get a visa. I had an amazing rocky road brownie cake thing before taking off to check out the city more.

I walked about a mile and a half up Leith walk and loved the look of all the bars and restaurants along the way. The sun was setting and I saw people up the hill, Carlton Hill, which was highly recommended, so I went on up and got some great views of the city as the night came on. There was a half-built Parthenon and a couple random buildings and castle like structures up there, too, and it was an amazing view of downtown. I hung out there for awhile before heading back down to take the walk back to Leith. I looked for a bar to pop into and rest for a bit and decided to go into the mousetrap, it looked cute and hip and there were just a couple guys at the bar. I started talking to them pretty quickly, one was quite strange, a self proclaimed introvert but he said he was drunk so he was more outgoing, and drinking Jameson, which I love but I thought a bit strange since we were in Scotland and they have their own whiskeys… And the guy next to him was a very tall blonde bearded truly Scottish fellow that wasn’t shy about making fun of his neighbor, and that was really funny. He was 7ft tall and told me about his transition from the bar industry to construction, which he really enjoyed now. He looked like Opi from sons of anarchy and even had their tattoo on his arm because he got that so often. He was a regular and a girl just getting done with her shift sat to join us for a few. She had cool dreaded hair and covered in tats and we bonded over that. We tried a bunch of local scotch whiskeys and some local gin, which was really good, and surprisingly smoky for a gin. She told me the makers originally had wanted to make beer but their adorable bottles they had to put the beer in were too expensive so they opted to make gin. Gin was a popular counterpart to the making of scotch since it took a lot less time, 6 months as opposed to years. So, I’m really happy I walked in and met these lovely locals and tried some local products. It was a really fun place! I walked home and went to bed after chatting with my host a bit. He was a sweet man that liked to host because he liked to meet people but didn’t really like to travel, and had a spare room. I had to get up early to go on a walking tour and he kindly knocked on my door in the morning to help me wake up and encouraged me to have fun on the tour.

The tour was great, quite a business even tho it was free, and our guide was originally from Spain but a quarter Scottish and in love with Edinburgh. She was adorable and funny and told us about the history of the Royal mile and how Edinburgh used to be. It was very cramped back then and she told us about how people used to live and some history of Scotland; some kings and their trouble and wars with England, their deacon cabinet maker that stole money from everyone and was hanged but mysteriously his grave contained no body, and the trick smaller step that was built into apartment buildings as a security system so thieves would fall and alert people of their presence. She took us through the graveyard where people used to hang out because it was one of the most open areas back then, and showed us some grave stones that may have been inspiration for jk Rowlings characters in Harry Potter, as well as the school that may have been a basis for the idea of Hogwarts. ( I later saw the cafe where it was said she wrote a lot. ) Our guide Sabela also told us that since there was such a good medical school in Edinburgh, grave robbers and body snatchers were quite common so they could sell the bodies to the school, so people had to put bars on the graves to protect their loved ones’ bodies if they weren’t rich enough to have a mausoleum. Even those had fences around them, though. And how that also brought about some serial killers. She told us about the hanging of Maggie who didn’t die the first time about so they spared her the second time around and was able to be forgiven for her sins (since she had been proclaimed dead) and went on to live a happy bar keepers life. The gallows were a big event back then! Crazy to think about. My favorite story that she told us was about William Wallace and Robert the Bruce, whose tales are mixed into one basically with the film Braveheart, but it was cool because the beer at home Robert the Bruce is my favorite ever (it’s a Scottish ale!).

I hung around the national museum and went up to the top and had another good look of the city. It was a beautiful day and I met my friend, Zoe, that I had known through teaching in South Korea and it was so great to see her again. It was so nice to hear about how she met her Polish man and we agreed we would get our other friends, Karen and Holly, to come out to Poland next summer for the wedding. She’s such a sweet girl and it was awesome to hear about her work with the disabled, she has such a big heart.   We had a great time catching up and it was so fun to hear how happy she is. We had some drinks on the hill in the sun and made our way to a bar, ended up back at the mousetrap actually! We made some friends, one a Dane who was about to start studying there, (so sweet, can’t wait to meet more of them), and went downtown to the black rose and there was karaoke, so we sang a few together! She had to go home to her betrothed but I stayed out with our Danish friend we had made and we met up with some French boys and all went out together. We started at Sneaky Pete’s, which Zoe had told me was good, and it was! A small dark dancing place that had a good vibe. We went to a much larger club after that, with many rooms and twists and turns and it felt like a castle, but I was also drunk, and it was really fun to just dance all night. It was fun to have those boys as friends but also since I was alone I had no problem exploring. Ended up making out with a French boy in a kilt! Because that’s a thing in Scotland.

I took it easy the next day as it was raining and I played guitar awhile with my host and that was really nice. I went on my way and hung around the city before my dinner date with a family friend my aunt had hooked me up with. The weather was intermittently rainy and sunny and probably should have done more museums but resigned to carting around all my things to different cafes since I was out of pounds to pay for a locker at the bus station. I met up with her around the museum and we had a bottle of prosecco as we got acquainted. She was such a lovely woman and it felt like meeting up with an aunt, she had known my mom’s family very well throughout her childhood. We went to a great little tapas place and overall had a really nice evening. She even helped me get to the bus station with my things! It was really amazing to meet her. It was hard to leave Scotland but I know I’ll be back 😌