Eurotrip 2014, Part 7: Off to Scotland

July 4, 2014: While the rest of my American brethren were busy celebrating Independence Day, I was hopping on a train in the country from which we won our independence, bound for Scotland.

Following a late night at the Monty Python concert, I awoke at 4 a.m. to get ready and check out of my London flat. It would have been nice to keep the apartment through the weekend and just bring a small suitcase for my three-day Scotland trip, but doing so would have been too expensive (the rental prices really skyrocket on weekends), so I packed everything up and lugged it all the way to King’s Cross station, where I met up with my tour group.

This was my first of two tours booked with International Friends (the second would be Amsterdam on the following weekend) and would prove to be the best part of my entire two-week stay in the U.K.; I just loved Scotland.

Our guide, George, introduced himself and gave us our train tickets, and before long we were on our way. There were reserved seats on the train for our group, which was nice, as I was able to have a pair of seats to myself. The ride took about 4.5 hours. After arriving in Edinburgh we hopped on a bus for a driving tour of the city. Here are a couple of photos from the bus ride.

Following the tour, we were dropped off at our guest houses. Most of the people on the tour chose the cheaper, shared rooms, but I upgraded to a nicer guest house with my own room. The only other person from the tour staying in my guest house was our guide George. The guest house was a cute, old building. The room was basic, no frills, but it was fine for two nights. The evenings were cool enough that the lack of AC didn’t bother me. The wi-fi was too weak to reach my room, but I didn’t really care about that—I hadn’t traveled to Scotland to surf the web.

After getting settled in I took a walk toward the center of the newer part of the city (we stayed on the New City side of the river); it was about a half-hour walk to the city center. Along the way I got my first taste of Scottish weather as it began pour. I ducked into a pub to eat a late lunch while waiting out the rain. The bacon and brie sandwich was pretty tasty and the glass of prosecco hit the spot.

I then ventured back out. Here are a couple of photos from my walk.  Due to the weather, I didn’t take too many photos on this day, but I would take a ton over the next two days.

I meandered a while longer and then headed back to my room. Later in the evening I accompanied George to a bar in the center of the city, where we would be having an optional group get together. For a while it was just the two of us, but then a few more people from the group showed up. I treated myself to some fine ale as well as a small glass of whiskey. I’m normally not a big whiskey drinker but Scotland is famous for its whiskey, so I had to try some.

Then came the big decision: do I try haggis? I had been leaning against it but I decided that I couldn’t go to Scotland without at least trying it—besides, I figured that if I can eat scrapple at home, there was no reason not to give haggis a go. So I ordered chicken stuffed with haggis in a whiskey gravy. It was actually pretty good, though probably not something I would ever crave.

Shortly after finishing dinner I headed back to the room. I had been functioning on just a few hours of sleep and I had a very long day ahead of me in the morning—a 13-hour round-trip journey into the Scottish Highlands. But before heading to bed I gazed out my window upon the latest sunset I had ever witnessed.

View From My Window

In New Jersey we’re used to it getting dark, even in the summer, by 9 p.m., but here in Edinburgh, the sky still had not gone completely dark by 11:30 p.m. Pretty wild.

View more of my photos from Scotland.

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