Life in the Posh Lane: Landslides and Good Friends
The train ride to Scotland from Newcastle is quite scenic. Following the Northumberland coastline fairly closely, the ride offers views of the North Sea and cuts through the open expanses for which Northumberland is famous. A relatively short ride, the route from Newcastle to Edinburgh is a routine one that runs about every hour. That is, when there isn’t a landslide.
You read that correctly: a landslide. That is precisely what occurred on October 4, when I was on a train bound for Edinburgh. Normally, trains to Edinburgh go north from Newcastle, following the route I previously described. Engineering work on the weekends currently forces trains to take a western route, via Carlisle, to reach Scotland on Saturdays and Sundays. Adding but two hours to the ride, the detour isn’t much of an inconvenience. Though on October 4, heavy rain had caused mud and debris to cover approximately twenty yards of track outside of Brampton, England. After boarding a 6:20 a.m. train bound for Edinburgh, I was stuck on a train for seven hellish hours. We were delayed three hours outside of Brampton to allow the track to clear. After enlisting the help of a local farmer and his tractor, the rail company was unable to clear the track and consequently sent the train back to Newcastle, only to encounter heavy traffic of trains returning east. A further three hours, plus an hour to and from Brampton, accounts for my grand total of seven. Not the best first experience on the British rail system.
I braved the trip again on Thursday, October 9 and am happy to report that I successfully made it to Scotland and got my ride through Northumberland too. In Edinburgh, I found myself in such a lovely city that I had nearly forgotten the recent referendum. That was, however, until we saw the “yes” graffiti in chalk on prominent buildings of the Royal Mile (the main set of streets between Edinburgh Castle and Holyrood Palace). Some pedestrians still wore “Yes” pins, but Edinburgh was politically silent during my trip.
The historic center of Edinburgh features gothic cathedrals, soaring clock towers, and abundant alleyways and crannies. Certainly reminiscent of Harry Potter, Edinburgh reeked of history that simply isn’t attainable in America. When walking the halls of Edinburgh Castle, we found ourselves in the room in which Mary, Queen of Scots, gave birth to her only son, who would be known as both James VI of Scotland and James I of England, concurrently. Simply decorated and preserved, the room was somewhat eerie. We tried to imagine where the bed would have been placed. Midwives, running to and fro, fetching linens and water. It was so quiet during our visit. The contrast only emphasized how long ago it was.
A hilly city, I assure you, the Scottish capitol seems to pride itself most on two things: whisky and cashmere. Both are national
products and are easily found within a stone’s throw of anywhere you are in Edinburgh. Sure, lambswool is nice and abundant. But cashmere. Peddlers wheel and deal tourists “cashmere-mixes:” a misleading blend featuring 95% wool and 5% cashmere. In Edinburgh, you can clothe yourself entirely in cashmere if you wish to do so – and if you have the money.
After spending the morning and much of the day in historic Edinburgh, we decided to climb Arthur’s Seat. Located in Edinburgh’s
Holyrood Park, Arthur’s Seat is a dormant volcano towering 822 feet above the city. Near Holyrood Palace, there are multiple routes to climb the mountain. We chose a longer route that wound through a deep valley. As we steadily climbed to the top, we caught glimpses of the Firth of Forth, where the river Forth reaches the North Sea. Near the top, the path gets very steep and very rocky, becoming a doppelganger for Gollum’s path into Mordor. At the top, however, you will not find Mount Doom, but rather a stunning and thoroughly rewarding panorama of the city and Forth. The trip down is much easier, but the trip up sure is fun.
We left Scotland exhausted. I have a blister on my right foot which should have its own zip code. And yet, Edinburgh was somewhat of a warm-up for the week ahead of me. As I finish this column, I am also preparing to go to Italy tomorrow. My week-long trip will include Rome, Florence, and Venice. I am sure to bring back some stories that I will share, as well as maybe some fresh blisters and new postcards for my rapidly-expanding collection.
I feel so lucky to have had the opportunity to study abroad. Better yet, I am grateful that I am experiencing it with a friend. I think Ms. Wilson is having the time of her life as well, and we will never forget climbing Arthur’s Seat, or even our first landslide. This summer, I went on a weeklong trip to the Bay Area in California. I went with three very good friends and toured San Francisco, Alcatraz, Yosemite National Park, and the surrounding area. I recently found myself looking back at photos from this summer and thanking my lucky stars that I have friends who want to see the world with me. Friends who want to explore and friends who want to see great things. Whether it be California, Scotland, or Italy, it seems my friends are always game for an adventure. It is not often that we find great friends, and fewer more who will hop on a plane with you to see what’s out there waiting.