Yesterday was a day of backtracking until we arrived in Edinburgh. We checked out of our hotel in Aberdeen at 11:15 a.m. and walked the short distance to the bus terminal. The bus station in Aberdeen is a bit of a cluster-f@#k.
Mass confusion on a grand scale—little to no signage and even the local Scots were asking us (Americans) what buses were going where and when. The few employees we asked tended to be less than helpful.
However, we found the right bus and queued up for our 12:10 p.m. departure with everyone else. It was complete anarchy with no sense of order or even politeness—it was every man for himself. We’re very conscious of the fact that we are Americans abroad so we try to keep up a certain sense of anti-stereotypical American decorum—but I must admit my patience was wearing thin. We stowed our gear (packs, duffels and Pelican case) under the bus and climbed aboard. Since arriving in Scotland I’ve added a handful of Scots to my blog as subscribers.
I don’t want to offend any of my new Scottish followers but I’m drawn to make cultural comparisons when travelling—both from city-to-city and country-to-country. We’ve met some really nice folks while travelling in Scotland but we’ve also noticed that many Scots seem to be more taciturn and even dour than other countries we’ve visited. Joel and I come from a German-American background so we know the mindset and recognise it when we see and experience it. We’ve seen a marked difference in behaviour between Ireland and Scotland.
These are just my observations and may not have any basis in fact whatsoever. But impressions are impressions. We found the Irish (especially) to be quick to laugh, smile, share a story and offer help. The Irish were generous by nature and we enjoyed various perks and discounts (unasked for) along the way. So far the Scots have struck us stoic, rather remote, unsmiling, big on the rules, not particularly generous (pinching pennies harder than I thought possible) and as I alluded to earlier taciturn and dour. Again, apologies to my Scottish friends—no offence intended.
So after boarding our bus in Aberdeen we settled in for the 3-hour and 15-minute ride to Edinburgh backtracking through Dundee and Perth before turning south across the River Tay (the longest river in Scotland). Entering Edinburgh is dramatic and the architecture is absolutely stunning. When we left Aberdeen it was sunny but by the time we arrived in Edinburg it was again cloudy with heavy overcast—today it’s raining. However, they are forecasting sunny (and even hot) weather next week with high temperatures reaching 18°C/67°F. That would be shirtsleeve weather.
Once we arrived in Edinburgh we hailed a taxi for the two-mile drive to our hotel in Leith. The driver opened his doors electronically, with no offer of help with our luggage, and we entered the throng of late afternoon commuters. Although the distance was short the drive time was long with the urban congestion. Arriving at our hotel he once again opened the doors electronically, we paid our toll of about £10 GBP, unloaded our gear and entered the hotel to check-in. Robert quickly checked us in and showed us to our room which I have dubbed the bat cave. Robert was friendly.
I will say it again—Robert was friendly and helpful. We reserved the cheapest room in the hotel for £23 GBP pp—it has a shared bath (not preferable but certainly doable). It’s also a step-down from the sidewalk and has no windows (hence the bat cave). It does come with free in-room Wi-Fi and free instant coffee. A Continental Breakfast is available for a whopping £7.95 GBP but is slim pickings for the price. In Aberdeen we enjoyed an all-you-can-eat buffet breakfast for £1 GBP more (£8.95 GBP). We’re cheap-ass American budget travellers looking for value.
I think we’re going to lose some weight during our three-week stay in Edinburgh. Once the rain lets up we’ll head out for a walkabout to search for less expensive food alternatives but I’m guessing we’ll wind up at the local Tesco and buy granola bars for breakfast and pre-made sandwiches for dinner—like I said, we can afford to lose a little weight. The UK has put a strain on our travel budget and I don’t think we’ll get much relief until we reach Eastern Europe and then into Asia. I suppose this post is sounding like a rant. And maybe it is—sorry, that’s usually not my style.
As full-time world trekkers Joel and I look for and appreciate value and authentic experiences. Big cities with their large crowds, crappy attitudes and astronomical prices cast a dark shadow on that appreciation. It’s not the UK per se but large expensive cities in general—NYC, LA and Chicago produce the same feelings in us. Stick us on a tropical beach (Playa Samara in Costa Rica), a thatched jungle hut (the Rio San Juan in southeastern Nicaragua) or in the middle of the Atacama Desert (in northern Chile) and we’re happy campers. Big cities not so much. I’ll work on getting my attitude in check.
Part of my problem might also be the weather. In the five months since leaving San Diego we’ve experienced less than a week of sunshine. Spring has finally arrived in the UK I think (although later than usual) so things may change. Having been born and raised in Southern California and living in Latin America for the last six years we’re used to sunshine—the change in weather has been different but grey overcast skies day in and day out can be kind of depressing. Nonetheless, as promised in the last paragraph, I will work on getting my attitude in check.