Yep, 5 am arrived bright and early. It really is amazing how much crap I can fit into that suitcase…and I still haven’t had to unzip PJ’s expander (If anyone is wondering why my suitcase is named “PJ”, it will be revealed later on in my trip). I checked out of my lovely B&B and even with traffic, the cab got me to the station with plenty of time to spare, so I made my way over – actually, under – to Platform 9 where I sat on a very cold bench with a very warm cup of tea from Starbucks until my train arrived. This particular train was a Virgin Trains East Coast train and they have these very helpful signs along the platform that tell you exactly where to wait depending on which coach you want. My reservation was for Coach F, so my cold bench was in that section.
We left York right on time and began to make our way north, calling at Darlington – where we were delayed for about ten minutes due to some track equipment – Durham (there was a fantastic view of Durham Cathedral), Newcastle, and Alnmouth before crossing into Scotland. The train route north from Yorkshire was absolutely beautiful, especially where the tracks ran right along the coast. Picturesque swatches of green – many dotted with fluffy ewes and their lambs – sloped down to where they morphed into beaches or abruptly stopped at cliffs overlooking the sea, a stunningly beautiful blue that stretched to the horizon, dotted with the odd cargo freighter. It was breathtaking and reminded me of driving along the California coast north of Santa Cruz.
Eventually, the train shifted inland and only a short while later, we arrived at Edinburgh Waverley station. Two very nice ladies noticed I seemed to be studying the station map somewhat intently – there are multiple exits at the station – and very kindly directed me to the one that would take me up to the taxi rank. My very friendly cab driver dropped me at my rented flat – a stone’s throw from Edinburgh Castle – in no time and wished me a pleasant holiday before I was warmly welcomed by the flat’s owner, a super nice woman named Eve who gave me a rundown on everything I’d need to know during my stay. She even makes her own soaps and preserves and stocks the little fridge with all the essentials, including eggs from her own hens (alas, I don’t eat eggs).
After scoping out a lunch spot and the nearest Sainsbury’s, I set out to grab a bite and some groceries. After climbing many flights of stairs, I arrived at the Amber Restaurant, located in the Scotch Whisky Experience atop Castlehill. After a tasty smoked salmon sandwich, enjoyed at a window table, I wandered around Castlehill and took in the amazing views of Edinburgh Castle – standing there before me – and the city, including the Princes Street Gardens and the Scott Monument, all things I intend to explore in my wanderings tomorrow. It began to hail and the wind picked up something fierce, so I made my way down Johnston Terrace to Sainsbury’s and then back to the flat, where I’ve spent the rest of the afternoon and evening doing laundry – something that seems to take quite awhile over here – and catching up on my writing, before chatting with my parents. The serenade from the neighbour across the hall’s stereo seems to have finally ended, so as soon as this post is finished and the dryer stops tumbling its final batch, I think I’ll be off to bed. My only plans for tomorrow are to explore, explore, explore.