Thursday, May 18, 2006

Up to Arthur's Seat and Down to York

I mentioned we were going to climb something called Arthur's Seat? Well, we did last night. First the weather turned a bit drizzly, but no matter, a little spattering of rain doesn't keep the Scots inside. We went to the backside of the trails, someone had suggested it was a shorter walk. Snort. I took one look up to the top of that rocky crag and said "I don't think so!" I suggested we hike up another ridge, a sort of headlands. So we did. It was beautiful but when we got to the top of the trail, William was disappointed because it didn't go all the way to the very top. I thought about it, gulped, and said if he really wanted, I was game to do the other trail.

Of course that meant first going back down the mountain we were on and starting over. Let me point out a few things. By this time it was evening and a long extended dusk. It was also raining a bit more seriously. But hey, there were still other hikers about. And last but not least, the way UP to the top appeared to be a series of rocky stairs switchbacks, although calling them stairs is being very generous.

Up we went. Eventually the stairs gave way to rock and we scrabbled up the last 100 feet or so and TA-DA!!!!! We were standing on the highest point as far as the eye could see. We were also soaked to the skin. But it was quite exciting.

The question then became, how should be get down. From the top we could see there were several choices open to us. We decided on the grassy valley on the other side. More scrabbling down the now slipperly rocks (although the only falls we made were on our butts on some slippery grass, each within a few seconds of each other, almost at the bottom again) and a few more of those "stairs" and then long sweeping hillsides of grass. And I do mean grass. No wonder the Scots invented golf, their native land is a natural golf course. This type of grass isn't native to the Americas, we have to plant the stuff. About an hour later, we finally made it back and found ourselves on the opposite side of the city. We'd been hiking for two or three hours by then. We rode back, a couple of very bedraggled looking puppies, on the city buses.

By this time we hadn't eaten in over eight hours. So we changed into dry clothing and headed off in search of food. We stumbled upon a little hidey hole pub/restaurant tucked into a row of B&B's just down the block from ours. YAH! And hey Kristen! I ordered that Shandy. Very good! I liked it a lot better then straight lager. The only problem was between the exercise and the beer, I was at risk of falling asleep face first into my dinner plate.

This morning it was very hard to leave Edinburgh. I really liked it there. No, I love Edinburgh. Rain or no rain. Wouldn't you know it we woke to blue skies on our last day there.

The train was delayed but still, an easy no transfer route and we arrived in York around midafternoon. This was the first time we hadn't made reservations before we arrived because we hadn't had any trouble making them so far and we thought it would be fun to keep our options open. Plus, some friends of ours - well, friends in the sense that we keep bumping into them - suggested a rather expensive B&B. I thought I'd check it out before committing, maybe we'd find something cheaper we liked just as well.

After dragging our suitcases all over the damn place, we discovered that it was the proverbial no room at the inn phenomenon. Why? Well, not because they were counting taxes. It was because we arrived on the only three days of some annual horse racing event.

Eventually, getting rather desperate, I inquired at a rather expensive looking hotel and after a few minutes of asking prices, the lady looked at me and said to the porter "Look at that face!" I guess I looked pretty forlorn. She offered us a twin double at a discount and I took it. It's still the most expensive place we've stayed, but it's not that much more and it's better then.... uhm.... better then the street, no matter how charming the streets are around here.

Again, starving, we got a late lunch, just across the street from the York Minster (aka BIG CHURCH). After, we went into the BIG CHURCH, saw the big ceilings, saw it cost £5 just to go in, decided it wasn't worth it. However, climbing the church tower, that sounded like fun. No problem after climbing a mountain, right!? So we paid for the pleasure of climbing the 275 very steep, very winding stairs up to the top. William of course zipped up with the energy of youth while I was keeping up behind as best I could but at least I was ahead of about four couples in their twenties and thirties. Until, that is, I just had to take a break, I was so out of wind. I curled into a window so everyone else could pass me only to find out about fifteen seconds later when I kept climbing that I was only about twelve steps from the top!

Speaking of charming streets, this afternoon we've been wandering around what's called The Shambles. It's a series of winding and curving streets, very narrow. It's apparently the best perserved medieval part of a town in England. To imagine what it looks like, just picture Diagon Alley! Really. I wonder if they filmed that part of the Harry Potter movies here?

I've found a couple of shops I want to investigate further tomorrow, when they reopen. William and I went up to a second story tea house and had a very late tea. We looked across to something called The Psychic Museum. Our waiter said it was owned by Uri Geller. I thought he was old!? So we spent the rest of the tea time trying to bend our tiny little tea spoons and watching the rain come down outside.

It's stopped now. We're just a couple doors down, at The Evil Eye Lounge. Very cool bizarre place, and internet access. William liked wandering off by himself while I typed yesterday, so he went off again today. He's getting quite brave. Or maybe it's me getting brave for letting him go off on his own?

Now it's time to say goodbye for the day - another ghost walk planned for this evening. Seems there's a lot of ghosts in England, eh?


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