The Arnot House is so comfortable and welcoming, Kim such a perfect host, that farewells do not come easy. I still follow her on Facebook and think about returning…York is just that special. Scotland beckons!
Lingering in the breakfast room, there is more conversation with Kim and the couple from Canada. They are also heading to the train station. They are going to spend a bit of time in London before leaving for home. A second couple joins us, they are from California. Over a second cup of coffee we share more stories and more experiences…and… we discover that we all travel a la Rick Steves. We laugh and swap tales of how we were all drawn to the Arnot House because of his guidebook. We also note that the popularity of his books have grown such that it is difficult to book impromptu travel using his suggestions. I share their lamentations that on previous trips an unexpected side trip still produced a Rick Steves suggested sleeping arrangement. So now travel needs to be a bit more organized, a bit more planned….but for the adventurous traveler all things are still possible!
My walk to the train station is considerably shorter and less confusing than my attempts to make my way from the train station to Grosvenor Terrace. I have booked my seat in advance, my rail pass gives me easy access to the platform and trains arrive and depart precisely as scheduled. My backpack slips easily into the overhead rack and once again I marvel at my ability to hoist it into those overhead luggage racks in both trains and planes.
The passenger car is alive with laughter and chatter – more young people excited to be going on holiday, eager tourists and weekend commuters. I pull out my Ipad. I have downloaded my guidebooks and once again I review my plans and priorities. The train ride from York to Edinburgh lasts about two and a half hours. The ride takes me along the East coast of the UK, along the North Sea, through the Moors to Druham, Newcastle and Berwick before arriving at Waverly Station in Edinburgh. I remember that I had researched stopping in Newcastle to perhaps hike a bit of Hadrian’s Wall. I have a sentimental memory of just such a hike a trip or two ago, but this is a new adventure, and I am crone. Maybe…later in my journey…maybe, maybe not…but still a possibility
Arriving in Waverly Station, I decide to grab lunch. Inside the main terminal is the Beer House. There is a table available and I claim a seat and order a beer and an interesting and unique cheese sandwich. I can do several side trips originating in either Edinburgh or Inverness traveling by bus. My previous travels in Europe, my time in Philadelphia and D.C., have all helped me to be very comfortable traveling by train, subway and metro systems, I confess I am not so comfortable traveling by bus. I know I need to get over this if I am going to be able to explore places not accessible by rail..so I finish my beer, hoist my backpack over my shoulder and I follow the signs for Way Out-1-Princess Street. The sign points the way out of the station and up the stairs to the Tourist Information Center.
I always visit the local TI. The centers provide a wealth of information, great tips and the answers to my often random questions. I confess my discomfort about buses to my agent, who laughs and reassures me that drivers are most helpful and that the system is fairly easy to negotiate. She gives me information on side trips available from both Edinburgh and Inverness and tells me that my decision not to purchase a Citilink Bus pass was good one. She also tells me that most bus fares within Edinburgh have been raised from 1.50 to 1.60 and it is always a good idea to have the correct change. Before leaving the complex, I reserve my seat for my train journey to Inverness, my next destination.
The sleeping accommodations recommended by the Rick Steves guidebook were either fully booked or the guest houses simply did not get back to me. Booking over a month before my trip proved to be just not early enough. I was able, however, to find a reasonable alternative through on line listings. The Appin House could accommodate my dates and my need for a single room… even a single room with bath…bath private, but not en suite. The guest house is about a mile and a half from Waverly Station and since I had no earthly idea where I was going, I happily paid the 8.00 taxi cab fare to 4 Queens Crescent.
Final arrangements for my stay were made directly with my host, Jim Burnett by telephone. Due to the timing of my arrival, he would not be at the house, but he gave me the passcode to open the main door and also told me where to find the key to my room. The front door opened with ease and the key was exactly where Jim had said it would be. As I picked up the key, a woman greeted me and insisted on carrying my backpack and showing me to my room. She opened my room, showed me to the private bath and told me about ordering my breakfast for the next morning. My room is on the third floor of the guest house. It is a tiny room with a twin bed facing a large window that is framed by heavy Morris inspired drapes and a deep swag. On one wall there is a maple wardrobe and on the other is a desk and chair. Next to my bed is a small nightstand….lots of electrical outlets! The thick heavy woolen carpet is an expanse of red and green plaid. The walls are covered with a wallpaper of creamy linen peppered with pale gold medallions. The window overlooks Queen’s Crescent, the room is small but comfortable: I settle in.
At some point in my planning of this trip, someone suggested an app called Maplets. I have found this app to be helpful in my travels. I also combine the maps in the Rick Steves Guidebook as well as the Lonely Planet Guide, to help me navigate my travels and my exploration of Edinburgh is no exemption. With a sense of direction restored, I start down the stairs and decide to explore my little neighborhood…but first I stop in the foyer to order my breakfast and select a time frame for my morning meal.
Turning right on Queens Crescent, I make my way to Mayfield Garden and eventually to Ratcliffe Terrace. I step into Leslie’s Pub and step up to the bar to order my first whiskey in Scotland. The bartender greets me with a grin. I ask for a recommendation that will not cost quite as much as my plane ticket home. He laughs and takes out a glass. I do give him some guidance, telling him I do not enjoy the whiskeys with a heavy peat flavor. He pours from a bottle along the middle shelf… “try this”… I take a sip and nod my approval…he finishes the pour…I sip again…Glenmorangie…very nice…welcome to Scotland.