Pour le moment, I am sitting in a third class carriage on a train travelling from Edinburgh to London. I’ve got my headphones on, and I’m watching Scotland fade away as this metal snake whisks us towards our final city of the tour. Thinking of everything we’ve seen and done in only seven days is impossible to comprehend. It’s like time has slowed down to compensate for everything we’ve wanted to do, and we’ve lived through a year’s worth of experiences in just one week.
I’ve been wanting to call this moment bittersweet, but I can’t bring myself to do it. Yes, we have only a couple days left before we must board that dreaded plane and head for home, but the memories of the thousands of moments and encounters and perfect little instances are keeping me from sadness. Not to mention, as we glide smoothly along the rails on this Southbound Train toward London, I can’t help but feel giddy with anticipation. We leave on Monday, but we have a lifetime to experience before that point. So rather than dwell on the inevitable departure, I plan on finding the coming moments and turning them into eternities.
Edinburgh today was short, but delightful. We had a strong wind to keep us awake, but had plenty of teas and coffees and goodies to revive us from the blustery outdoors. We started off the day with a tour from a blue-badge guide. He held our attention for a number of reasons. First of all, his personality was just perfect. So friendly, so cheerful, and so accommodating. This jolly old man’s thick Scottish accent reminded us every second of where we were, but the kilt and pouch and knee-high socks and ghillies he wore emphasized our location all the more.
He took us all over the city pointing out the cathedrals, the museums, the memorials, the statues, and residences worthy of interest. We found the home of Robert Louis Stevenson, author of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Treasure Island, and Swiss Family Robinson. We found the statue of Sherlock Holmes, which commemorated the author, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, who came from Edinburgh. We were taken to Her Majesty the Queen’s residence in Scotland, Holyrood Palace. We found The Elephant House, the acclaimed birthplace of J.K. Rowling’s bestselling series, Harry Potter. The city outside our windows was buzzing with activity, and the tour was a wonderful way to get acquainted with our surroundings.
We visited our third castle of the tour, and were blown away. (Almost literally.) More like a kingdom than anything, Edinburgh Castle was vast. I was reminded of the city of Gondor from The Lord of the Rings, because of its walls that housed not only the dwelling of the King, but of many houses and chapels and businesses. It was like a village made of stone. On top of the wonderful tour, we randomly got a chance to stroke some live owls. There was a massive one with eyes so big and yellow they nearly glowed, and a tiny one that could fit into the palm of the hand. They simply stood on their owner’s arm, and the big one occasionally impressed us with his wingspan. We took a look around the prisons, the Great Hall, the cannons, but most importantly, the café. The scones with clotted cream and jam were absolutely delectable, and we were able to warm up with tasty lattes and Americanos.
For lunch, we finally had the option to try Scotland’s most famous dish: Haggis. The word itself made some want to upchuck, but I was pleasantly surprised by the number of people who agreed to try it. After all, what would be the point of coming to Scotland and then leaving without consuming a lamb’s stomach, right? Served with mashed potatoes and turnips, the haggis turned out to be savoury, juicy, and really delicious.
We were given our final two hours in Scotland to spend as we wished. We walked up the Royal Mile, explored the shops, spotted a couple monuments and memorials, and stopped in at the National Gallery. One day in Edinburgh was not nearly enough time. I suppose the only solution is to return, someday.
That brings us to the present moment. We departed from the station in Edinburgh, feeling very much like we were heading off to either Hogwarts or Narnia, and we’ve been hurtling through the British countryside at 180 mph ever since. As we pass through all these little towns and cities, my heart grows more and more fond of this part of the world. With its rich history and vibrant green landscapes and diversely pleasant cultures, the British Isles have had no trouble in arresting my curiosity.
It's taking me forever to type all this out, as I have to pause between every few words to simply stare out the window. The misty moors and fields and groves characteristic of the English countryside keep drawing my eyes away from my screen, but I guess 4.5 hours on this train should be more than enough time for both writing and watching. We’ve passed through the stations at Berwick Upon Tweed, Newcastle, Darlington, York, Newark North Gate, and Peterborough, and there are more to come. It’s so wonderful to be able to see so much of this country in such a short amount of time. While the towns we zoom through pull at my heart and it’s hard to simply roll through without stopping in, it’s quite an experience to be able to traverse such an expanse of land by ground transport.
200 miles down, and Heaven knows how many left to go. If all goes as planned, we’ll be pulling up at London King’s Cross station in a couple hours. The last leg of the journey. Our last chance to see the sights, try the food, and explore the city. We’ll be able to finish this incredible ride with one final plunge. It’s unbearably exciting to think about how much we are about to encounter. It’s impossibly wonderful to think about what kinds of memories and recollections will be filling my mind after the next two days.
It all culminates in London. The climax, the finale, the end. Slow down, time!