Thursday, June 11, 2009

from Scotland, one last time

In truth, neither of us is in the mood to be in Edinburgh. Ed dislikes most cities that are noisy and chaotic, and me – I prefer to keep my images of this place as I had them when I was young: I thought of it then as a cold and dark city, but one that grew on you, especially in the afternoon, especially if you stopped for a long tea and let it roll into the evening meal. With a pint after, to end the day.

Still, we could not pass it by. For all our time in Scotland, for our love of this tremendously beautiful country and its generous people, I thought we should at least spend a day poking around the capital.

In the end, a full day proved to be too much. Indeed, I can truthfully say that the best part of our stay here was within the first few hours, when we searched for Pickham’s -- the store with good cheeses for supper.

And the day after that? It could be that we were stuck in another world – of mountains and lakes, of sheep and fields of heather – it could be that. For both of us, the city felt like a trap. Around the commercial downtown, you could not escape the chaos of the tram construction. And so we placed our hopes with the Medieval Royal Mile, up there on the cliff, stretching from the castle to the palace.



But there we found a different sort of chaos – of tour buses and souvenir shops, of kilts and imitation kilts for sale, of fast eateries with prepackaged scones, prepackaged everything. You could not shake it. I could not shake it. There was no room for strolling, for contemplation. The place of historic momentum, of old buildings where poets and politicians spun their stories over the centuries appeared to have sold its soul to t-shirt shops and tattoo parlors.

The rain came and went and the afternoon turned first somber then downright sad.


The escape into a tearoom was the final slap: it felt far removed from the Scotland that I had loved so deeply up there in the Highlands.

Of course, the fault is our own. As I said, for many reasons, we were not ready and willing to take on this great tourist destination. And I have to note that there were some stellar moments to the day: the walk through the park, the visit to the Art Gallery, the climb up Arthur’s Seat in Holyrood Park behind the Royal Palace.


And the quick visit to the People's Museum, depicting life of the commoner in past centuries here was informative, if not a little depressing.


By late afternoon we were ready to call it a day. Though in the end, we rescued the mood with a wonderful meal of Shetland Island mussels at Fishers. We had begun our Scottish adventure at Fishers several weeks back and we were ending it there now.


Thursday should get us to Paris. Just for a day. Saturday, we’ll be home.