Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Scotland Part 1

We make it to the airport with several hours to spare, and whilst waiting to check in, we observe the behaviour of others around us. Turns out that no matter how much of a fuss you kick up, there's no option of taking extra luggage with you. "Go over there and empty your bag, bring it back to me when it weighs less than 6kg." I hold my breath and gingerly place my suitcase and hand luggage on the scale. Mine is 1 kg under weight, and mom's is 900g over, so together we're alright. The next obstacle is finding food. I would soon live to regret my mumbled "I'll eat through security" when I realised that there was NO FOOD THROUGH SECURITY. Not even a crappy Costa rip-off to sell my exhausted soul a cup of milk-less tea and a dry doughnut. After making besties with an older lady who asked us to watch her handbag whilst she visited the loo (cue minor internal panic that she had definitely just left us with a bomb), she was most interested to hear that we were from South Africa. "Is it safe there, though? The whole Oscar Pistorius thing..." No, lady, it's not safe in SA... every former sports star is a raving lunatic with a gun. 

Eventually we fall in line to board, way at the back of the line, underneath a large poster bearing the image of a designer handbag. I don't know more than 5 words of Italian, but the message is pretty clear: if you're found with counterfeit products, you're in big poo. Hmm. Good thing I managed to tear myself away from that beautiful handbag I'd seen on the streets of Rome. 

Once in the air, the food trolley can't come around quickly enough, but once it does I have to be difficult once again. Rather than grab a coke and packet of crisps to help my rapidly-dropping sugar levels, I insist on tea and a cheeseburger. What? I was starving and it was the most substantial thing on the menu. Little do I know that we'll be 15 minutes from touchdown when my pathetic excuse for a cheeseburger will finally arrive, along with the ketchup I'd paid 50c for. Sigh. I'm done with you, EasyJet.

Upon landing, it's all I can do to not throw myself upon the Great British ground and kiss it. While crying. And throwing back litres and M&S lemonade. Seriously, I've never been so happy to touch down in an English-speaking, Starbucks-offering country in my entire life. I never have to see another gosh-damned pizza again in my life!

We make it onto a bus (and pass a Toby Carvery - cue flood of emotions - remember the server caller Chris? - but unfortunately we don't get time to pay a visit to this particular restaurant) but by now my mind is starting to lose itself in an "OMG The Killers" deadlock, because I'm seeing my favourite band in exactly 4 days. 

After checking in to our hotel - a neat, pretty MotelOne complete with a kettle - we hit the road to the nearest M&S. I have a vague recollection of lemon-flavoured biscuits, buying a dress from H&M or Primark or somewhere, a mad hunt through Primark for a suitable pair of wellies for T, dinner composed of a stuffed baked potato and an interesting cold drink, a quick glance at a few more shops, then heading back to the hotel just in time to hear the news saying Mandela was on his death bed and Cory Monteith was actually dead. I also felt a pang of a minor elation at the fact that there was a Starbucks just up the road. And then... I slept. 

But dawn breaks early when you're so far north, and we waste no time in hitting Starbucks for a snack before proceeding to explore the town. Edinburgh Castle comes first, where we bump into a large collection of Canadian school children, before pottering off down the Royal Mile in search of tartan scarves which cost less than 30 Pounds (read: rip-offs that weren't 100% cashmere - ain't nobody got time for that). 

Scotland is everything. It's the walk up a steep and winding path to the Castle, at the top of which you find the best view of the city you could imagine; it's the record shop that stocks enough Springsteen vinyls to keep an E-Streeter happy for the rest of his or her glory days; it's the fact that there's a freaking volcano in town, and another castle at the other end of the Royal Mile. It's everything. Once again with food on our minds, we head towards the centre of town and locate the Hard Rock Cafe, where the waiter frowns and informs me that I don't look like I'm dressed for T in the Park. Please. It's taking every ounce of self-control I possess, for me to still be wearing normal shoes rather than prancing around in my brand new pink wellies. 

The Edinburgh Dungeons are not the be missed, and we brace ourselves for the scariest possible tour. We pass a giant fake guillotine (maybe, I can't remember what it was, but I know for a fact that it could chop heads off...) and venture down a dark passage way, decorated on each side with a fake rat or two. From somewhere inside comes maniacal laughter, and a guy in a long cloak takes our money, before handing us our change and saying "Thank ye' " in a thick Scottish accent. I giggle and fight the urge to beg him to say "See ye in another life, Brotha." Trying his best to be menacing, he leads us into a room and orders us to stay there, along with a woeful-looking dad ('What am I getting myself in for?'  is surely his predominant thought) and his two teenage daughters. Eventually we're ushered into a makeshift courtroom and interrogated for various crimes: someone's broken the laws of fashion; someone else was caught dancing naked at midnight. And the dad? "Where're you from?" asks the 'judge'. "Belfast." 'Sorry." "BELFAST." "Oh no, I heard you, I'm just sorry that you're from Belfast." and the poor dude is certainly sorry at this very moment that he ever left Belfast. And so we move on through the tour - the ghost girl in the window is a nice touch, as is the way the seats move below us when we're inside the rooms of some dodgy lady doctor. The cannibalistic cave-people are quite fun too, but then we're made to board a 'boat' and row off down a 'river' to escape them. 'Scuse me? You want to launch me through the pitch dark in a mechanical boat, without any idea of what's ahead of me? Not about that life. I repeat: I am not about that life. Luckily I manage to keep calm enough to not plant myself upon anyone's lap (unlike Belfastian teens in the seats in front of me). Next we're loaded onto a mini-rollercoaster and zipped up into the air and then dropped. Child's play after that boat. I'll stay on this tour as long as someone can promise me that the rest of it will be fully illuminated. It is, although we do have to fight our way through a maze of mirrors to find the exit, where we leave through the gift shop after purchasing photographs of ourselves beheading each other. 

Darkness also falls late here, meaning that we have been able to squeeze in a full tour of the city before passing out back in the hotel room with an adequate supply of M&S and tea, to ready our bodies for what is to come the next day...

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