Thursday, September 27, 2012

On to Scotland!

Written earlier today

I usually write my blog posts in the evening after the day has mostly finished, but I'm currently writing from on board a train bound for Edinburgh, the capital of Scotland. Surprisingly, there is wifi on this train, although I don't intend on using it much.  The first-class passengers receive it free, and the coach passengers still get 15 minutes free, but then us peasants have to pay for more than 15 minutes.  One very nice bit of information, though, is that on the sign-in screen they display the current location and speed of the train.  I can proudly report I'm moving north at 110 MPH.  Also, I've seen some items that look surprisingly like home.  For example, we've passed by several fields of wind turbines out on farms, which is strangely reminicent of US 30 in Ohio.  Then there are other things that are not so normal, like children playing soccer and cars on the other side of the road.

One of the most dramatic parts of the train ride happened when I looked up, looked to my right (east), and saw the ocean.  I knew I would be traveling north along the eastern coast of Britain, but I just wasn't quite expecting to see the ocean until I reach Brighton next week.  There was a pretty little coastal town with weather-worn houses lined up along the hilly background, and then the ocean behind it.  It looked like something out of, well, New England to me.

British pounds look weird to me.  The notes are not completely unique, unlike most US notes which look relatively uniform from one to another.  Also, I've heard that Scotland has some different notes, maybe a £2 or £1 note that isn't present (although still legal) in the southern part of the island.

I'll arrive in Edinburgh after most tourist attractions have closed; my primary goal is to find the hotel, get checked in, and explore the area a little.  I'm staying two nights, so Friday will be my primary day of sightseeing in Edinburgh.  I've learned that there is a "royal mile" from the nearby Edinburgh Castle to another palace about a mile to the east.  I've booked a ticket for the castle and a whiskey tour on that street between the two.  I figure if I can find that area, I should be pretty good to go.

It's still weird to think that I'm not in Poland.  Don't get me wrong, the signs are all here - everything is in English, I can understand people, prices are higher, scenery is a bit different (I've seen many sheep so far today).  I guess what may be the weird thing is to think I'm not going back to Poland.  I've spent three months trying to acclimate myself to Kraków, and it was getting to be pretty "normal" by the end.  I was still a foreigner with language problems, but I basically knew how to get myself to work, feed myself, have some fun, and where a good variety of shops were.  I know it's not really home, but it was getting to be a close imitation  with the notable difference being Laurel's absence.

Written this evening

The actual arrival in Edinburgh was pretty uneventful.  Once some tourist-info-people pointed me in the right direction, I was able to find the hotel easily.  I was surprised to find that I am now 2/2 on unexpected hotel upgrades in the UK.  Let's hope this trend continues!  However, my room is on the top floor of a no-elevator building, so getting to it was an unexpected exercise.  Also, the free wifi is spotty, so we'll see how uploading pictures goes.

The room has a view of the ocean.  Don't get me wrong; the ocean is probably a good 1-2 miles away, but the hotel is up on a hill and I can see it pretty clearly.  I'll try to get a picture in the daylight; it was cloudy and near sunset when I arrived so a picture wouldn't have been very clear.

I got to explore the Royal Mile a little bit.  Shops seem to close surprisingly early here.  Starbucks closes before 9PM, for example.  I did hike around a bit and find the Scottish Parliament, though.  I managed to get a picture of it in spite of some teenagers apparently filming a nighttime skateboarding video around the building.

Tomorrow - Scottish breakfast and then the castle!


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