It was an early morning for us (I’m noticing a trend) even though our train didn’t leave until ten. We had a bit of tidying up to do in the cottage. We cleaned up last night’s dishes, checked that all of our food was out of the fridge, and straightened up the large stack of brochures and magazines on the coffee table. We did a final idiot check in the rooms and bathroom before sitting down to a cup of tea before we left. After a quick stop at the dumpster at the end of the drive, we left our quiet little cottage behind.
We pulled into the Morrison’s before swinging over to the train station so we could drop our recycling and a few other things we didn’t just want to bin. Then it was back to the station. We managed a parking spot in front of the building, which we hoped would be an acceptable place to leave the car for pick-up. We grabbed breakfast at the café across from the platform. By this point I was beginning to wake up fully and the anticipation of seeing Peter was growing steadily.
(We grabbed a few more photos of the train before we left. Didn’t really consider the steam until it started pulling away.)
For some background, Peter is an old friend of the family and a former roommate who moved to Germany almost two years ago. We were all very excited and happy for him, if not a bit jealous of his new fancy job with its free beverages and cozy relaxation rooms in a new and exciting country, but we also missed him tons. He’d come home for Christmas last year and we saw him then, but getting to see him on his new home turf was infinitely more exciting. I’ve lived in Fort Collins almost my whole life but I’ve never been to Germany, let alone mainland Europe. (It might need clarifying at this point that Peter came to see us in Scotland and then later we went to see him in Berlin. I’ll get to that later.)
The Harry Potter cards got broken in more on the train trip to Edinburgh. Mom and I played Crazy Eights most of the way. At one point we found ourselves locked in a fierce battle of Spades vs. Clubs. There seemed to be no end in sight! But eventually mom beat me. Yes, I’ll admit it. The trip took us through what mom called the Moors of Scotland. I can only assume she was correct. The sky was gray and the fog was hanging low to the ground. The greens and browns of the surrounding vegetation were the shades I imagine a marsh to have. There was a touch of gloom about the whole scene.
Five minutes from Waverly I got a call. It was Peter! He had arrived and was trying to figure out what platform our train would be pulling into. I spent the last minutes on the train bouncing up and down like an excitable baby. I resisted pushing people out of my way on the platform to get to the exit faster. We each walked through the barricade with our eyes scanning the crowd for that tall gangly goofball we loved so much. I caught sight of him just as two people passed in front of him going opposite directions, like a play curtain being pulled back to reveal our Peterface.
We both rushed over and into individual hugs, which then morphed into one big group hug. Walking out of the station was a bit of a struggle. We were trying to maintain a conversation while simultaneously navigating the loads of people moving this way and that through the station. Up the elevator and onto the street, we piled us and all of our luggage into a cab and were off to meet our new host. Maya was her name. I had been messaging with her a fair bit before we left and I was already sure that I was going to like her a lot.
The flat was a 20-minute bus ride from the city centre, which I for one was glad of. Rebecca’s place had been a bit close to the hustle and bustle, so it was nice to have a place to come back to that wasn’t right in the middle of it all. We paid our driver and walked around the back of the building to find a metal staircase that took us up to Maya’s door. It was painted a bright-but-not-too-bright shade of orange and there were potted plants on the landing and front windowsill. The door opened to reveal a brown-haired woman with a lively look to her eyes. We clumsily shook hands as I fumbled luggage over the threshold into a narrow hall.
She directed us down the hall to the room at the very end. The walls were a brilliant pink, but besides that the room was wonderful. The beds were comfortable with plenty of pillows. There were an ample amount of hooks on the wall and a bowl of snacks in the corner. A large ‘Yes’ flag flapped just outside the window in the breeze. Maya showed us the bathroom and kitchen. Each room had signs indicating where certain utensils or cookware were housed, what breakfast foods were available, how to use the washer and where you could stow your shower things. Maya provided everything you could ever want and made sure you knew exactly where it was. Sorry, I’ll try to keep this from becoming a review of Maya’s fantastic hospitality. Anyway, after she had showed us around and introduced us to her partner Malc, we chatted a bit about our travels and plans in the city.
It was thanks to Maya we had such an enjoyable first night in Edinburgh together. We had asked if she knew any good vegetarian or vegan places in town and she gave us a whole list of places to try. Once we were settled in a bit, we left the flat and caught a bus over to the Royal Mile. Per Maya’s recommendation, we were headed to a restaurant called David Bann, a licensed vegetarian restaurant so you know it has to be good. And boy was it.
Not only was the food amazing but we each got a fantastic beer as well. The only thing I could complain about, and I wouldn’t really even do that as it makes for a sort of funny story, is that the bathrooms there do an exquisite job of making you first feel like you’ve been pranked and then like you’re an idiot. You have to go through two doors to get into the actual bathroom. The first door you enter leads into a tiny space no bigger than a closet, and the door matches the wall so well I thought I had actually walked into a closet at first and someone had just put the ‘Ladies’ sign on the door as a joke.
After we left David Bann, full of good food and drink, we walked back down the street and around the corner to the World’s End. That’s right. There is an actual bar called the World’s End, just like in that Simon Pegg movie. The place was nearly full when we walked in but we managed to slip past a table and into a corner booth. It was in the bar that the energy of Election Day was really palpable. Sorry if I forgot to mention that earlier. We had come back to Edinburgh on the day Scotland would be voting for independence!
(I guess it’s a cash bar. Haha! Y—you get it?)
People were out drinking, celebrating, wearing Scottish flags as capes and singing Loch Lomond, albeit a little out of tune. Mom and I joined in with the singers but Peter couldn’t be convinced. Mom soon struck up a conversation about politics and the election with the couple sitting next to us. Peter and I drank our beer and made idle talk while taking in the bar and its patrons. Everyone was there with a group of friends, laughing and telling stories. The whole place hummed with exuberance and hopes of a ‘yes’ win the following morning.
Mom’s newly made friends left a while later and we followed shortly after when we had finished our drinks. It was still early, especially for a country that was on the brink of independence. The streets were filled with people walking or stumbling from one bar to another. Music blared from restaurants and pubs as we passed. The elation was contagious and I found myself smiling for no real reason. Peter caught a few measures from I’m Gonna Be (better known as the “I would walk 500 miles” song) and we broke into shrill renditions of the bridge at least five or six times on the walk to the bus stop.
We were back at the flat by eleven and decided to Skype dad since we had added Peter to the ranks. The three of us squeezed onto the bed in front of my tiny phone and waited for the bearded face of my Old Man to show up. After we got dad’s obligatory German Nazi jokes out of the way, we let Peter do most of the talking about how he’d been and what he’d been up to since dad had last seen him. We got roughly half an hour of talking in before Skype acted up and froze. It wasn’t a big deal. We had run out of things to say for the most part, and for us at least it was getting late. With what we had planned for tomorrow we were going to need our rest.