Haggis, Neeps, and Tatties

The journey to Scotland was a strange one. I flew from Gatwick Airport, which I usually like because it’s so convenient to get to from Brighton. The train there was nearly empty and I was leaving mid afternoon, so I was hopeful that I had missed peak times. My hopes were dashed upon my arrival. The airport was swarming with people.

I wasn’t checking any luggage, but I had to queue regardless because I hadn’t printed out my boarding pass in advance. I don’t have a printer, and it had never been a problem before. It was painful to stand in the miles-long line, watching idiot after idiot walk up to the desk who hadn’t read the fine print. One carry on bag! Within the size restrictions! Is that so hard? You really thought you could walk on with a camera around your neck, a purse on your shoulder, and an jumbo sized shopping bag? I was treated to the sight of person after person unpacking half their luggage in an effort to consolidate it. Rookies.

The security checkpoint was no better. There is no way that eve single person in that line was a first time traveler, yet somehow, after standing in line for 20 minutes, they hadn’t managed to take their coat off by the time it was their turn. It wasn’t cold or anything.

Then, for the first time ever, the sensor went off when I walked through it. This was odd, since I was wearing basically the same outfit as I do every other time I travel and virtually no metal. As I was frisked head-to-toe, the lady explained to me that it wasn’t a metal detector. It just selects people completely randomly to be searches. Seems like a pretty large machine for such a simple function: a random beep. On a side note, I bet she could completely undress someone In 15 seconds flat. Professional and efficient, she found ways into my clothing that I didnt know existed.

On the other side of this intimate experience and the X-ray machine, I went to reclaim my handbag. Completely randomly, this too had been selected for further inspection. I was carrying the exact same things as I always carry. I had to wait for ages… The inspectors were running behind with the vast number of randomly or purposefully selected bags. Again, I refuse to believe that everyone else in the airport was a first time traveller. Yet for some reason, they thought they could carry on family-sized bottles of lotion onto their flight. And then argued with the airport personel about it, keeping them from getting to my bag for even longer.

The random test was of my liquids. For the record, they were the same liquids I bring onto every flight: MAC NC 15 prolongwear foundation, Clinique eye makeup remover, Chanel Mademoiselle Perfume, and Crest travel sized toothpaste. But today, they needed to “test” these. They held the mouth of the plastic baggie that contained them up to a little machine. After a few seconds, it made a beep. I wondered if that was random, too.

I had to get straight to my gate. I arrived as they started boarding. I’m never in a hurry to get on a plane. I figure I’m going to be stuck there for long enough as it is. My one carry on bag is small enough to fit under my seat, so I’m not competing for space in the overhead bins.

I mosey onto the flight. I’m in an aisle seat, the rest of the row is full. The woman that I sit down next to greets me with, “I see you got the short straw!” She has an infant on her lap, and a toddler occupies the window seat.

To her credit, they all knew the drill. I guess they make the trip between London and Edinburgh pretty often. She told me that the secret to a quiet flight is plenty of food. Unfortunately, her toddler likes airplane restrooms, which means 2 or 3 potty trips a flight. She also used my fold-down tray to mix the baby formula and hold the hot water. I even held the baby for her for a minute. She tells me that I have a special place in heaven waiting for me someday.

Considering what my luck had been like the rest of the day, I bought a scratchers ticket from the flight attendant. I didn’t win.

I’m realizing now that it sounds like a pretty unpleasant day so far, but I really didn’t mind it. It was more interesting than anything else. I’ve never been frisked before, and it’s been so long since I’ve see Matthew that I enjoyed a little action. I have whole new insight into airport security, and I didn’t have to wait around bored in the duty-free shops for an hour before my flight. Even the kids were remarkable well behaved, and it was better to sit next to a friendly young mum than a creepy, smelly, or grouchy person.

I picked up some reading material from the Edinburgh Airport, and took the time on the bus to leaf through all my pamphlets. The most interesting was definitely the one about day trips, but as I have only one full day in Edinburgh it would mean I wouldn’t get to do much else.

Edinburgh is gorgeous. I knew that much from the bus ride. I asked the lady next to me on the flight what I should do, and her only recommendation was to walk around and enjoy the cafes. The castle looked intriguing to me, as we drove into the city center. Instead of being on a hill to one side of the town, like the others I’ve seen lately, this was on a hill in the center of the city. And it looked epic.

I realized when I hopped off the bus that I didn’t know where I was or where I was going. I headed in the direction of general civilization. I noticed that a small building had a big sign naming it the Scotland National Gallery. There was also an advertising poster, and on it a painting I recognized as a Sargent. I eagerly made my way to the doors of the building, only to find out that it had closed 15 minutes ago, at 5:00.

At this point, I stopped at a Costa Coffee to use the Internet and orient myself. I had just been talking with my mom about plans (castle or day trip?) when I was suddenly booted off. Apparently, there is a 30 minute limit on the free wifi unless you have a free rewards card that you’ve registered online. It was too late for me to register one, which was quite frustrating. Still with no idea where to go or what to do, where I was or where my hostel was located, I was back on the street. I thought I might just walk around and enjoy the town.

The weather was dry today but extremely windy. We were told on the plane that the winds in the city were up to 25 mph. It almost blew me away. As I walked in front of stores with their doors open, I watched it blow shirts off the rack. Midwestern politeness taking over, I followed the wind into the store and hung the clothing back up. Well, maybe it was only half politeness. The store was Primark, and that’s just hard to resist.

It was a good trip! I bought sneakers for £3 and shorts. Carson and I are planning to ride bikes through Normandy, and I leave for that trip 2 days after I return from this one and probably wouldn’t have had time to find proper attire. The opportunity presented itself, so I took it.

Back on the street again, I still had no idea where I was. I continued walking, but I was in some shopping district and now all the places with coffee and wifi were closed. I kept on, enjoying the walk through the city, and eventually found a nice place to have a sit.

I found my hostel on google maps. By some strange stroke of luck, the street i had wandered onto happened to be the same one that lead to my hostel.

I headed that way. Unfortunately, there seems to be a lot of construction in Edinburgh right now. Most of the streets are blocked off, but there are pedestrian crossings so it’s not bad by foot.

I came across my hostel more quickly than I had expected. Google maps has it misplaced, which is a little annoying. Also inconvenient is that fact that the hostel is named “The Hostel,” making it hard to find on the Internet amongst every single other hostel in Edinburgh.

This is the first hostel I’ve checked into that had a large, rowdy, and drunk crowd going by 7 in the afternoon. Normally that doesn’t get started til a little later. I was met at the door by a girl wearing socks, who lead me up the stairs to where she checked my in. I was issued the standard sheets and pillowcase, left to find my way to my room. It was actually a little confusing, but fortunately there was a drunk man to help me out.

After storing my luggage, I came back down to reception to talk to Grace about what to do in Edinburgh. I had made up my mind to take that day trip tomorrow. As interesting as the castle seems, and as much as I want to see that museum, I will have many more chances to see fortresses and art. This is my single opportunity to see something uniquely and specifically Scottish. The Loch Ness tours involve, of course, quite a bit more than just that… But I’ll keep that to myself til tomorrow.

I got some recommendations for nearby Scottish fare. Like English food, I think, it’s mostly pub food. I stayed near to the hostel, which is kinda outside of town so I figured that the fare would be more authentic. Besides, I have an early morning tomorrow. The menu was full of familiar sights: fish n chips, kidney pie, and it makes sense since we’re still in the UK. I knew what I was havingn the moment I saw it: “Haggis Neep and Tatties.” Or to be more precise, I didn’t know what I was having. I have no idea what any of those mean, but they were definitely Scottish.

It was good, but too rich for me to finish the whole thing. Tatties turned out to be mashed potatoes, I’m pretty sure. It came as three piles of things. Mashed potatoes, mashed something else, and then a pile of grainy meat flavored something. It tasted like sheep.

I didn’t hang around. I needed to get back to the hostel and work on my blog, of course. The common area was still rowdy. Someone had a guitar, and would play a few repeating chords while drunk girls sang American songs.

When we were kicked out of the common room (it closed around midnight) i took up residence in a communal sort of hallway. there was a man who was already set up with his laptop, so i joined his table. His name is Graeme. He’s lived in Edinburgh for most of his life and was able to clear a few things up for me like the difference between Scotch and Scottish (Scotch is made up by non Scottish people). I also learned how to pronounce a few Scottish words. Haggis, as it turns out, is sheep stomach stuffed with sheep heart, lungs, intestines, and barely… And Neeps is turnips. He’s also nearly convinced me that Scottish real ale is worth trying, risk of migraine aside. That’s what I have medicine for, right? Wrong. I think.

It’s going to be an early morning tomorrow and I’m excited for it. My Scottish adventure is only just beginning, and I’m already sad that it has to end.

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