Saturday, September 12, 2009

Awesome Anniversary Trip - Part 11

So, there we were in Edinburgh: Edinburgh was a bit cooler than London had been. (No surprise there, since it is so far North)
Many of the buildings were constructed of very old looking, very black stone (this was true in Glasgow, as well). Quite different from anything we'd seen anywhere else. And, of course, there were several of these around:
It was early afternoon but our backpacks already seemed a bit heavier than usual and parts of the Edinburgh streets seem to go straight up, so we decided to do our favorite tourist feet-saving thing: we caught a local bus.
It was quite thrill to ride a bus that went past or on many of the things I had read about in Alexander McCall Smith books (the 44 Scotland Street series).
We rode around for awhile before we realized we'd better find our bus to Peebles (where we would be spending the night). We had to wait at our bus stop for awhile. Older ladies with their shopping bags clustered around and gossiped. Younger people smoked and talked rather loudly. We were the only non-locals. Eventually the right bus came along and we got on. It was a double decker so we moved up to the top.

We saw lots more of Edinburgh as the bus made all its local stops:
And then we were out of the city and into the Scottish countryside. Way into the countryside (green hills and lots of sheep, none of which we took any pictures of, which I now regret). We started to wonder if we had made a mistake. We had reservations for a castle in Peebles, which, as Prince Charming likes to defend himself, looked very close to Edinburgh on a map.

Note: Peebles is not all that close to Edinburgh.

We had asked which stop to get off for the Castle Venlaw and someone told us to get off at the first bus stop in Peebles. Which is what we did. There was a car dealership and a little petrol station across from a great big hill with a sign for Castle Venlaw. We walked into a residential area (behind the car dealership) first but we quickly realized our mistake - no one else was walking here and everything seemed quiet. We walked back to the bus stop and then we saw the sign for the castle - up the hill.

Nothing for it: we started walking up. About 1/3 of the way up the wooded hill we saw a farm house with a large gate. This was not the castle. But it was home to pack of enormous, snarling dogs. Now, I am not generally afraid of dogs and Prince Charming is. But I stopped well back from those animals. Prince Charming urged me to keep walking but I balked. I walked all right, right back down the hill.

"Let's just call a cab," I begged. My feet hurt and I just wanted to get to our nice little castle room without being mauled by dogs. It didn't seem like too much to ask. So we walked toward the little petrol station (the car dealership being closed). We walked in and asked if someone could help us call a car. Answer: no. There were two employees, neither of which was inclined to help two Americans. One suggested we "try next door". Brilliant idea, except for the little business next door was closed, just like everything else.

So now we were walking through Peebles. Alone. Tired. Discouraged. We saw a sign for Tesco (a large grocery chain) we thought we might be able to find a pay phone there. So we walked to the store which was: "Opening in one week!"

Not good.

I think it was around this point that I started to think that if I were to die in Peebles the locals would just step around my body. We found another little store, asked for help and got exactly the same response as before. In desperation we asked where the police station was (thinking that at least they'd have to help us. Or arrest us. Or something). "Just down the road," they told us.

So we walked to the police station which was - are you ready? - closed. Open from 9-5 every day and it was, of course, well after five at this point. I may have thought some very wicked things about Scots at this point. We walked around the building, looking to see if there was anyone left cleaning up or anything. There were several police vehicles sitting in the parking lot. (It briefly occurred to me that we could steal one and no one would be the wiser until morning. There is no night crime in Peebles, apparently).

This trip was seeming less than awesome at this point. Prince Charming trudged ahead but I lagged behind. He may have been heading back to the bus stop (I certainly thought we should. But he couldn't forget the deposit on our nice castle room. And people say I'm the frugal one!) but I was not really heading any where. I followed behind my husband, tears streaming down my face. I wasn't really crying, not really, but I couldn't stop the tears.

"I'm just going to walk up to one of these houses and ask for help," was Prince Charming's next idea.

"Why would they help us, Americans, strangers, when no one else will?" Seemed like a reasonable question to me.

Neither of us knew what to do next and I was about to throw my backpack in the middle of the road and lay down upon it...


Lisa said...

This is a very sad sad tale. Good thing I know the rest of the story.

And P.S- I miss you guys!

Pastor said...

The dramatic suspense is palpable.

Pastor said...


Philip said...

As I recall, we were also near starving and in desperate need of the WC. !!!

oddcincy said...

I eagerly await the next episode of this adventure!

Re: the second photo, of the Walter Scott monument. I've been there! It's a steep narrow staircase with no rail, so I just braced myself against the walls for dear life. I thought if I mis-stepped, I would trip and fall and die. This is a monument to the fact that Scots must be far less lawsuit-happy than Americans.

As for Scots being rude, I didn't see this myself, but I was also staying with Rolf's family. Maybe the tourist experience is different.

Also, Rolf and I had a similar experience in Paris. Due to a mix-up with Expedia, the hotel we'd booked, which we'd thought was in the middle of downtown, was actually in a suburb miles from any public transportation. This was unacceptable because neither of us had an international driver's license and French taxis are expensive.

But what made me cry on the Paris Metro was that I discovered this after way too little sleep, an early morning plane flight, and at least three hours travelling on the ground.

When you're that weary, emotions just don't function properly.

However, our story does end well. By nightfall, we were able to find another hotel with vacant rooms (rare in Paris). It was in a suburb, but near the last stop of the Metro, which is all that matters. Rolf's and my rule for urban travelling is that if you can get on the subway, you can probably get anywhere worth going.

Also, the people we encountered were polite and they kindly tolerated my high school French.

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