Thursday, I slept in, got ready, and headed out for a day in the life of the adventurous KJ.
I walked over to a Tesco and picked up a few snacks for the road and a little breakfast. I decided I’d go see the Rosslyn Chapel first, as it was a little ways out of town. So I took the 31 bus out past the edge of the city and alighted to transfer to the 41 into Rosslyn. The Google map app indicated the next bus wouldn’t be along for another 20 minutes, so I pulled out my ukulele and started tuning up. Whelp, Googlemaps was wrong. The bus ran right past me as I was tuning up, not bothering to stop. I obviously saw it too late to jump up and catch it, so I waited another 45 minutes or so along this country road outside Edinburg and just . . . practiced the ukulele! I worked on some chords and then “Down by the Sally Gardens.”
A lot of the folks driving by gave me the crazy look, but some of them burst into big grins and laughed. I laughed right along with them. It was kind of fun, leaning against this little stone pillar at the bus stop, strumming a ukulele. And kind of random. It would make smile if I were on their side, driving on the outskirts of Edinburg, seeing this random girl with a big hat playing the ukulele at a bus stop. I mean, who does that??
This girl, apparently.
The 41 eventually came and I made it to Rosslyn. I ran into a lovely woman from New Zealand who had immigrated to the UK several years ago and was new to Edinburgh. Sharon and I became fast friends and toured the Rosslyn Chapel and grounds together. Here are a few pictures of this beautiful site. You might recognize it from the Da Vinci Code movie. It is rumoured to have a holy relic – a piece of the Cross.
What it does have is a wealth of beautifully-wrought works of masonry inside and out. Unfortunately we couldn’t take pictures of the inside, as the chapel is still a functioning church. Weather has taken its toll over the centuries, and the chapel was abandoned for long periods. But they’ve done quite a bit of restoration. In the 1800s, a famous poet remarked that there was ivy growing inside the walls, which were so green it was impossible to tell where the walls ended and the plants began. Rosslyn Chapel is a treasure. There is a beautiful stillness and peace on the grounds.
Sharon and I caught the 41 out of Rosslyn just in time, and I headed back into the city. I was going to check out Hollyrood Park and climb up the crags, but felt like going busking instead. The day before while I was wandering around Princes Street, a vendor who sold me a ring gave me the inside scoop on the busking spots around Edinburgh. I decided to visit Rose Street, a pretty little pedestrian street parallel to the famed Princes Street. There wasn’t a lot of foot traffic, so I settled in a place around three restaurants with outside patios. Fortunately the weather was beautiful and dry. I started singing, and there was a great response! It was kind of a magical moment for all of us. I went through about 6 songs and went to find another spot, but there were already more buskers out along the street, and the sun had started to set. I made my way over to Hollyrood Park to climb up the hills and get some shots overlooking the city.
Here are a few:
I nearly didn’t follow my original plan to climb up Arthur’s Seat that night, but I ran into Sean, an author from Yorkshire who runs up and down the summit every day, and he talked me into giving it a go. So I hiked up around the little mountain in the dimming light, stumbled around a bit, and pushed on until I reached the very top. It was quite the hike! By then the sun had set and there was only a little ambient light left. It was a glorious sight to behold all of Edinburg.
My Yorkshire friend met me up at the summit, and we enjoyed the view for a bit and headed down. Turns out I had taken one of the trickier paths up the mountain. He led me down the “easy way” – probably a good idea, as we were climbing down in near dark at this point. I’m really glad he was with me – I wouldn’t have known how to make my way down safely without his guidance. We made our way downtown along scenic byways, passing through the University.
At some point I parted from my new friend and caught a bus over to Stockbridge. The gentleman who owned the jewelry stand where I bought my ring the day before told me about a jam session with local musicians on Thursday nights over in Stockbridge, a neighborhood in the Northwest part of Edinburgh. No tourists would be there and it was off the beaten path. Of course I had to go!
I arrived around 10:30 and found three musicians just going to town on Irish jigs and folk tunes, a group of local fans huddled round a table close by. It was wonderful. One fiddler, Katie from Jersey, had been in Edinburg five years – she stayed on after graduating from university. The guitarist, Cameron, was a local from the border of Scotland, who is in two touring bands and a ton of YouTube videos. The other man, Tim, on citron and fiddle, was from Ireland. They graciously made room for me at the table. Katie led the group in a few tunes she knew. Tim played one of his own compositions for us. He played both citron and violin to great effect, many times accompanying himself singing. They even accompanied me in a couple folk songs. In acting, it is so vital to listen to each other and really respond – it is also essential in making music, to really listen and work together. These musicians were wonderful listeners. It was thrilling to witness.
Jamming with really good folk musicians in a pub in Edinburgh on a Thursday night. I mean, who gets to do that??? Lucky, lucky me. Time stopped for a moment. I dipped my cup at the well of music and drank.
But the night wasn’t over yet . . .
On the way over to the pub for music night, my phone died. It still had 30% battery power, but I think the damp cold did it in. It nearly did me in – I had to bundle up in every layer I’d brought for the day. I had grabbed the wrong power adaptor, so I had to rely on a tourist map and the friendly locals.
We wrapped up the jam session around midnight, and Tim dropped me off at the bus station on Princes Street. Cameron showed me which bus to take back to the hotel, so I hopped on the 22 Night Bus. Except it wasn’t the right bus . . . it was headed West, but on a different route than what I’d taken in, and I recognized nothing. Nothing. And it was late. Edinburgh bus drivers are kind of gruff, and they aren’t terribly sympathetic to tourists. Not that I blame them. I avoid tourists in NYC at all costs, but now I am one. I finally mustered up the courage to ask the driver where I should get off for Murrayfield Road, and he told me I was on the wrong bus, to take a bus back into town and another one that went along a different road.
It was about 1:15 AM.
I got off, crossed the road, and waited for the N22 to take me back. In Edinburgh most of the bus stops have little electronic screens with lists of all the buses and their ETAs. Fortunately, the next bus was only 6 minutes away. I asked the driver where I should go, and he let me off at the next stop with instructions to go left and then right, and turn this way and that. Eeeeeek. The map I had did not include this neighborhood, and my phone was dead. At 1:30AM in a city I didn’t know. Lovely! I took off, hoping to find my way. I came to a well-lit rugby stadium with a set of stairs leading up to a tram stop.
All I had to rely on now was prayer and instinct. I felt so vulnerable, so tired. I did freak out for a moment: “Omg, I don’t know where I’m going, my phone is dead, it’s late at night, no one’s around, and I’m totally lost! What’s going to happen??” I did get a handle on the anxiety, and followed an impulse to go up the steps to the tram station. I heard some rustling around and saw a late night worker on the other side of the fence. So I hollered over to him and asked for help. He ran off and brought back a fellow worker who knew the neighborhood better. I did have a map of part of the area close to the hotel, and it was enough for him to point me in the right direction and tell me where to turn specifically. I was actually fairly close to the road I was familiar with. I thanked the workers and took off again. No one was on the roads, and they were fairly well lit. I felt strangely safe, even though I was in a foreign city in the middle of the night. My hotel was in a pretty posh part of the outskirts of Edinburg. I was OK. So I made my way back to the hotel and arrived around 2AM. Whew!!!
The next morning I enjoyed a full Scottish breakfast (minus the nasty-looking blood pudding) and headed on a train down to Ely to see my old roommate from college days of yore.
I got only a taste of Edinburgh and Scotland, but what a taste! What an adventure!
The only thing missing is The Next Time. J