Scotland 6: Day 9

03.07.18 | Dumfries > Kilmarnock | 11:58

First off, I want to give a shout-out to everyone who complimented me on my new hat. I did a live video yesterday from a cemetery in Dumfries and many people thought it looked good. I actually picked it up at an H&M in Edinburgh, mostly because Scotland is cold and rainy right now. I can’t help it that I am the height of teen fashion. Seriously, thank you for your compliments!

I checked out of my hotel this morning and headed to the train station. I had plenty of time, so I headed further into town, back to the restaurant where I got the pancakes yesterday. I ordered a traditional Scottish breakfast, minus the black pudding and the haggis.

I am off to my next destination- yet another location that I’ve never visited, so I don’t really know what to expect. I’m sipping hot chocolate (shocker) on a train, and have about an hour until I will make a transfer in Kilmarnock, then head to Ayr, on the coast. Jonny texted me from Chicago and told me that I should do a hot chocolate collage and frame it. He may be on to something.

The countryside is beautiful! The temperature has finally risen to about 40°, so it’s actually turning into a beautiful day! I don’t yet know if the sun is going to actually make an appearance, however.

12:28

Ok- I’m the idiot who just missed his station. I was lost in thought and didn’t realize we’d reached the transfer. This has never happened before! I hope the next stop is soon so I can backtrack! It wouldn’t be so bad if I was in the city, the next stop would probably only be moments away. Since I’m traveling through the countryside, it may be awhile!

New Cumnock > Ayr | 13:03

I got off at the next stop and checked Scotrail for the next train that would take me back to make my connection to Ayr. The website said the next option wasn’t until after 16:00. I walked into a station cafe and told two ladies my situation. After they were done having a good laugh at this lost American, they told me that there was a bus that left to Ayr in about 15 minutes. I ran over to the bus stop and now I’m back on track (not literally, since I’m not on a train at the moment). This little “detour” should only set me back about half an hour or 40 minutes. Not too much wasted time. Zero stress: I am embracing the adventure!

Ayr Hotel | 21:28

The good news is that I was able to find my hotel very easily- it was probably only about a 10-minute walk from the bus station. Ready for the bad news? Come to find out, I hadn’t missed my stop when I thought I had. I did more research when I got to the hotel and it dawned on me that I still had two stops to go! The moral of the story is- be present and don’t mentally drift off!

This Hotel is awesome! It’s not huge, but some of the decor and furnishings give it a ritzy, almost Downton Abbey vibe, that is, if Downton Abbey was set in modern times. Maybe it was the way the bellman carried my bags up the stairs and called me “sir” (a little bit creepy- I’d prefer ‘dude’). I hereby promise to not act like I don’t deserve to stay here. I just need a bell that I can ring so “the help” can bring my tea…

Tonight I’m laying in bed, deciding what movie to watch. I had an amazing dinner at the hotel here, which was a three-course meal. First, they brought me some chicken skewers in some kind of peanut sauce. It tasted very “Thai”. The second was the main course, which was a pulled lamb over couscous, and dessert was a really good caramel Oreo cheesecake.

I can’t wait to explore the area tomorrow!

Scotland 6: Day 5

03.03.18 | Edinburgh, Scotland | 23:12

I didn’t get very much sleep last night. I could hear the music and a very loud party from a nearby pub. I think it’s the Irish pub just around the corner and up Victoria Street. It was Friday night, however, so I don’t blame anyone. I may experience the same thing again tonight. At least tonight, I’ll have my earplugs ready.

Jonny was out the door by about 03:30. I had planned on walking with him to the bus stop, but when I stood up and started to get ready, he told me that I didn’t need to. I tried to explain the directions as best I could and sent him off, hoping he wouldn’t get lost. He texted me a few hours later, just after he landed in Milan, Italy, so I know he made it safe.

Lunch was at Pret A Manger. I believe I’ve mentioned the restaurant before. It’s a soup/ sandwich shop where they make it all fresh daily. They put the food out on a shelf, and you grab whatever you want. They believe in trying to get local produce, and since it’s all made fresh daily, I’ve heard they even give the leftovers to food kitchens, not sure if that last part is true, but that would be cool!

I was bound and determined to get some exercise today. I made myself walk from the top of The Royal Mile to Holyrood at the bottom, and then I later walked over to New Town. In my exploring, I found a marketplace that used to be a church and ran into a photographer whose picture I have hanging on my wall at home in Utah (see story).

I told him that I was the guy who contacted him from Utah and reminded him that I had his image hanging in my home. He seemed delighted to shake my hand. I promised him that if I had the funds, I would be purchasing another one of his prints when I come back through Edinburgh and before I head home to the states.

Tonight was Italian food for dinner. I’ve eaten at Bella Italia many times over the years because they’re always so good! I ate some bruschetta and some gnocchi.

I just met my new roommate, a guy called Gohan. He is French and pronounces his name more like “jew-on”… only “Frenchier” than that. He told me that he was from about an hour south of Paris and is on a break from University. He is hoping to get a job here at the hostel. He has big plans to get a flat somewhere. He then asked me to go with him to help him open a bank account. I told him I don’t know anything about opening a bank account in the United Kingdom. Still, he told me the reason he wanted to take me was that he could understand me. When he spoke with the Scottish bank representative, he couldn’t understand the thick accent.

I told him that this probably wouldn’t be possible because it’s already late on Saturday night and I’d be leaving early on Monday morning. Plus, knowing me, I would probably accidentally co-sign for something, like possibly that new flat he wants to rent. No thanks.

I hope I can find somewhere to karaoke tonight. That would be fun! Y’all remember I like to sing, right?

Scotland 6: Day 4

03.02.18 | Edinburgh Hostel | 20:56

Today was a “Check in- check out day”. When Jonny originally told me he was going to join me in Scotland, he said that he was just going to stay for only three days. For this reason, I’d booked us a bedroom with two beds, but then to save money, the rest of my time here was going to be spent in a cheaper room with three beds instead. He decided to extend out for one more day, and because both of us were moving to a new room, we had to be out by 10:00 and weren’t allowed to check back in until 13:00.

We went to get a late breakfast, but as soon as they let us check back in, we did so. I asked the desk clerk if he could put me in the same room as Jonny. After tinkering with his computer for a few minutes, I ended up getting the room upgrade for free. I’m not even sure why this happened, but I’m glad it did.

For our final day together, we went to the cinema in New Town. Dinner was at a nearby Indian restaurant. Since we were both craving this for a few days, this totally hit the spot! It was a great day, but I will say one thing: Jonny does not like walking around in the snow and he hasn’t been afraid to remind me of that fact, at least thirty-five times over the last three days. I just wish he would have enjoyed his time here. He has clearly been miserable. If I could control the weather, I totally would. I decided, from the beginning, that I wasn’t going to let the weather control my mood. Jonny, however, did not.

Tomorrow, Jonny is off to Milan. I hope it’s warm for him (even though I know it isn’t going to be), and I hope he finds a part of the trip that will make him happy. Or rather, I hope he chooses to be happy. We had quite a few heart-to-heart conversations and the man has been through a lot of hard times. Life is good, and I think we all need reminders of that from time to time. At least, I know I do.

I think that we have singlehandedly drank all of the hot chocolate in Scotland. It feels like we have, at least. I really need to eat healthier while I’m here. Perhaps I’ll start eating more salads and drinking less hot chocolates.

…but it tastes so good!

Scotland 6: Day 3

03.01.18 | Edinburgh Hostel | 14:13

Snow-mageddon rages on! It’s really not a huge amount of snow, especially compared to what we’re used to in the states, but the biggest problem is that I’ve yet to see a single snow plow come through and clear the streets. I imagine they have them here, but they must be working in other parts of the city at the moment. The only snow clearing has happened from the brave drivers who are venturing out. Jonny is over it. Even though he lives in Chicago, where they get so much more snow than here, this is definitely not how he’d pictured Scotland in his head. He’s weighing his options… he’s either going to fly somewhere else (possibly Italy), stay here for a few more days, or just head back to the states. I’ll definitely miss him when he goes, but at this point I just want him to be happy. We’ll see what he ends up doing. I, for one, love the snow, but most of the businesses around Edinburgh have decided to stay closed. This is so their employees don’t have to come to work. Even the cinema is closed at the moment. So on a cold, blustery day, we could be watching a movie, but instead, we’re hanging out at the hostel. I’m working on this blog entry while Jonny decides what he wants to do, travel-wise.

We went back to Mum’s for lunch. The server seemed amused to see us back since we’d eaten there for dinner last night. I told her that she may even see us another time or two because almost all of the other restaurants are not opening their doors today. I had a venison and redcurrant pie, with a “deluxe hot chocolate”. Jonny had a questionable-looking veggie burger and some kind of shake with alcohol in it.

24:10

We learned today that the people of Edinburgh DO NOT plow the streets here like they would in any other civilized society. It’s no wonder that most of the businesses have had to remain closed for the day. This storm is the heaviest one they’ve had in about 22 years, according to our server. The city doesn’t really want to invest in all the snow-removal equipment, because they don’t know when they’re going to need it again.

At dinner time, we found a few restaurants open on High Street, but decided to trudge through the snow over to the New Town side. We managed to find a Chinese restaurant. The food was alright, but the chef sure loved to use salt. Both my soup and entree were extremely salty. Afterward, we headed over and found some dessert at an Italian restaurant/ cafe.

Scotland 6: Day 2

02.28.18 | Edinburgh Hostel | 21:51

Edinburgh and many other parts of Scotland are under a “Red Alert Warning” because of all the snow that we’re getting at the moment. So far, this is nothing that those of us who live in Utah don’t already have to deal with. In fact, so many stores and restaurants have closed their doors because they are thinking that lives are going to be lost. I know it snows here, but I think they’re just expecting some kind of snow-mageddon. It’ll be interesting to see how this turns out.

Jonny and I were up until about 04:00, and didn’t wake up until after 11:00. That may be normal for some people, but not for myself. Perhaps this means I’m getting older? While we were walking around yesterday, we spotted an Indian/Thai restaurant that we really wanted to try out for lunch today. We found the place and it was closed. This sort of bummed us out a bit because we both had been craving curry. We ended up getting a late breakfast at a restaurant called Fig Tree Bistro. This is a perfect example of a traditional Scottish breakfast: A fried egg, pork sausages, a potato scone, a portabello mushroom, beans, bacon, a slice of tomato, and toast. Tradition would have me add some blood pudding and haggis, but no thanks- been there, done that.

Earlier this afternoon, we went to see The Greatest Showman. I felt like Jonny needed to see it, and I was right- he thought it was great! This marks the fourth time that I’ve seen it in the cinema, and it still gets me. It makes me laugh, it makes me cry and really touches my heart! I can’t promise you that I won’t see it another time before it comes out on video… and yes, I have preordered it on iTunes.

Tonight I took Jonny to dinner at Mum’s, which happens to be one of my favorite restaurants in all of Edinburgh. I’ve eaten here on many visits and it’s the best place for simple Scottish comfort food. Jonny got some kind of pie (something vegetarian, that he said tasted amazing. I got my usual: Sausages & Mash (bangers and mash, if you will). Always a great meal at Mum’s!

Today’s hot chocolate is brought to you by the fine people of Starbucks.

Today’s Hot

Scotland 6: Day 1

02.27.18 | Edinburgh Hostel | 23:00

When I came out of International arrivals, Jonny was waiting. His flight had arrived just about an hour before my own, and he waited at a Costa Coffee in the airport in Edinburgh. I’ve never had anyone waiting for me in Scotland. As you know, these trips are usually a solo endeavor and even though he’s going to be with me for less than a week, this is hopefully going to be a good plot twist.

I knew it wouldn’t be long before my jet lag kicked in, but since it was Jonny’s first time here, we needed to go see the world-famous Edinburgh Castle. We dropped our bags off at the hostel and headed up High Street, a.k.a. The Royal Mile. This city has so many great memories and about now is when so many of them were flooding back. We paid our £17 entry fee and were able to join a guided tour that had just started. Then the wind kicked in. Let me tell you- I have never been to Scotland in this kind of cold. The snow hadn’t yet started, but the wind was already starting to make things miserable. We probably spent about an hour walking around and decided to go find some lunch so we could spend some time indoors.

We walked down High Street until we came to Deacon Brodie’s Tavern. Jonny had some vegetarian sausages, and I had a steak, ale, and mushroom pie. This was the perfect escape from the wind, which had now brought in the snow. I have never experienced Edinburgh this cold before. Even when I come at the end of February, or the beginning of March, I only have had to prepare for winds and rain. This was a whole different ballgame, and I still loved it!

Dinner was a restaurant in a mall area on the New Town side of the city. It is called Slug and Lettuce. Jonny, the traveling vegetarian, got a salad. I had some fish, but it actually came with a super-foods side salad. Also, even though I’ve only been here for two days, I’ve already had three hot chocolates! This may become a problem! I will no doubt come back to the states heavier than when I’d left! Thank heaven for Herbalife!

Scotland 6: PreTrip

My plane from BWI to PVD landed just after noon- two legs down, one to go. When I turned on my phone, I had a voicemail from the Anne Arundel County police. Apparently, I butt-dialed 9-1-1. Whoops! I’m sure they got the wrong guy. Weirdly, the call isn’t showing up in my call history, though.

Here’s the problem I am now faced with: My flight doesn’t leave until 21:35 tonight, so I need to fill up the time doing something. How early is too early to check-in for an international flight? I texted Jonny, and he told me that he wasn’t looking forward to sitting around for five hours until he can catch his flight. I just wish I only had five hours here!

I asked a Delta baggage-office agent if there are any decent restaurants near the airport, and he sent me to Legal Sea Foods, which happens to be located right across the street. I had some clam chowder, followed by some dang good fish tacos. I fought the urge to order dessert. I rationalized that since I’m on vacation, it’s ok. Then I realized that I’m most likely going to eat too many desserts soon. I will remain strong (for now).

After lunch, I caught a Lyft to a nearby shopping center to get some chocolate for the flight crew and try to get a haircut. The chocolate that I found came from a place called Sweenor’s. I wanted something better than M&Ms, but not too expensive. I ended up spending about $30 on a 1 1/2 lbs. assortment. Since I’m flying Norwegian, I asked my friend and former crashpad roommate, Kyle, who now works for this airline, if he knew the crew. He said he didn’t, but that most of them were based in Edinburgh. I hope they appreciate the chocolate. Unfortunately, I was unable to get the haircut I was seeking. The lady told me that they did take walk-ins, but every stylist was fully booked for the day. I’ll have to get one on the other side of the pond.

Now I’m sitting at the Starbucks outside the Security checkpoint at the airport. This is awesome because my large 12.9 inch iPad is in front of me, and since I’m typing and sipping a venti-sized drink (an herbal tea, if you must know), I can pretend I’m one of those wanna-be screenplay writers who live in Los Angeles and hangs out at Starbucks to use their free Wi-Fi.

PVD > EDI | 21:35 (Eastern US Time)

21:35 was when we were scheduled to depart, but Norwegian actually pushed back from the gate about 25 minutes early. This was good because we’re already up in the air before our scheduled push time. I love it when this happens! I guess if you have everyone, you have everyone- let’s go! Jonny sent me a message right as I was turning off my phone. His flight was slightly delayed, and we were leaving about the same time. Perhaps we’ll land closer to the same time- he was initially supposed to have to wait for a couple of hours for me once he landed.

The crew really appreciated the chocolate, and they were terrific! I will definitely continue to look for a flight on Norwegian in the future. They impressed me from Copenhagen to New York City last year as well. They thanked me several times, handed me three bottles of water, and told me that there were empty rows in the back of the plane if I want to go back and lay down. I hope to get at least a little sleep in the next six hours and forty-five minutes. I doubt it’s going to happen, however. I’m “as giddy as a schoolboy.” I believe that quote is from Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.

23:40 (Eastern US Time)

I don’t know why I even try to sleep on the plane when I travel. I’ve never been able to rest. I think I may have mental problems. Perhaps it’s the fact that there are other people around? There are a few times where I’ve come close to dozing off, but I never get any rest. It doesn’t really matter how tired I am. If I don’t at least get some rest, tomorrow will be a long, headachy kind of day. Bless the flight crew who have reserved some vacant seats in the back so I can go lay down. I really don’t think it’s going to do any good. Just over four-and-a-half hours to go.

Last night, my nephew Sam came over and slept on my couch. I asked him if he could drop me off early this morning at Salt Lake City airport. Since I’ll be away from home for a while, I didn’t want to keep my car out in the elements. The employee parking area at SLC isn’t covered parking. I pay them tons of money to park there, and I wish they would use some of that money to put a roof over our vehicles. Perhaps my money is helping to pay for the new airport that they’re building.

Sam has inspired me to set up a website that will display a ranking of how much I love each of my nephews and nieces. This way, they can compete for the top spot by doing things for me or buying me stuff. He is currently at the top of the list. I want to inspire/ challenge the other 24 to up their game to earn that number one spot. I would include all of my great-nephews and great-nieces, but they are too young and don’t yet have jobs to make money to buy me stuff.

The first leg of the journey was a flight from SLC to BWI. Tonight I’m back in Linthicum, Maryland. This is my old stomping grounds from the first three years that I was based at BWI. Many memories of living in downtown Baltimore and then having a crashpad here in Linthicum after moving to Kentucky. The best part of living in Maryland was the friends I made. Among them is my dear, sweet friend Monica.

Monica picked me up, and we just had a great meal together. She told me about the friends she’d kept in touch with- friends from “the old days.” While we talked, I realized that I had left Maryland for Kentucky more than ten years ago! I don’t even know where time has gone! The last time I was even with Monica was at least five years ago when our friend Arron was in town- I remember going to play games at Dave & Buster’s. As per usual, my time with Monica was so short. I had to be the party-pooper and get back to the hotel. I need rest- I haven’t slept very much for the last three nights. This is because I’m too excited- it’s been constant trips to the bathroom, you know when a little puppy gets so excited that it has to pee? That’s been my body all week. Finally, the day has come! It’s time to go on vacation!

Each time I prepare for a trip to Scotland, I have a friend or two who want to go with me. The first time this happened, I asked that friend what he wanted to see and do while there. I set up what I thought would be the perfect trip to Scotland, especially for someone who has never been there. Then that friend had a conflict and had to drop out of the trip. I still had a great trip but by myself. I’m not complaining, however. This same thing happened a second time with other friends. Just like last time, these friends had to drop out for one reason or another. I’ve learned that I need only to plan the perfect trip for myself. That way, if the others drop out, I still have an ideal trip for one. No regrets- over the years, I have gotten extremely good at traveling by myself (and I like it!).

I invited many friends/ coworkers to come with me. Most of them said they were interested, but the number quickly began to dwindle before I started booking. Of the twenty-one invited, two have made it to the deadline. My coworker Jonny will join me for the first few days, and my friend Alan wants to join me toward the end. I am surprised that more weren’t interested because this is a group of people who make their living by traveling. Most of them know how to make an international trip. Some, albeit, are new to the line of work/ lifestyle and aren’t getting paid very much yet, but It’s not like I planned this trip last week- I let them know about this as early as October.

Again, no big deal- it’s still going to be a fun time in Scotland! I have planned the perfect adventure. I am going to try to update this blog every day, internet connection permitting. You know there will be pictures of most of my food and, more than likely, a daily sleep report. I apologize in advance for any grammatical errors- these will be fixed at a future date. 

Here we go! when you thought I would sit still for a little while- Tomorrow is the beginning of Scotland 6!