I nearly decided against Edinburgh on this trip, as it was the priciest part of my UK tour, but I’m SO glad I took the plunge and went anyway! I wouldn’t have missed out on these experiences for anything.
First off, my housing arrangements fell through. Three times!!!
While still in London, I had scoped out Edinburgh hostels – the most affordable options were 18-bed mixed dorms, which didn’t look particularly appealing. So I checked Airbnb. There were some great options in the £20/night range, so I started a reservation at a nice place in north Edinburgh close to the beach. Perfect. After getting through the application process, they asked for a working phone number to verify. Unfortunately I did not have a working number at the moment, as I had arranged for my US carrier to shut off service. International service through AT&T is kind of ridiculous. It’s far cheaper to unlock your phone and get SIM cards overseas. My phone was in the process of getting unlocked, but it hadn’t gone through yet. By the time I got a UK SIM card and a working number, Airbnb had cancelled the hold on the room and someone else had booked it. Bummer.
I went ahead and reserved another room and waited for confirmation. While I was on the train up to Edinburgh Wednesday morning, the host finally responded that her room was not available due to her having booked it through another site. Argh. We pulled into Edinburgh Waverly and I still did not have a place to stay the night. I pulled out my phone –which now had a new UK SIM card with unlimited data (hooray!) and looked up a few hostel options. I couldn’t find any phone numbers on hostelworld.com, so I decided to walk over to one of them. It was only a mile or so away.
A mile in Edinburgh means up and down hills, over cobblestone roads, and loads of intersections. I dragged the Ridiculously Heavy Suitcase, backpack, and ukulele down the Royal Mile, under a bridge, and into a slightly dodgy part of town, only to discover that this hostel did not exist. How lovely. I had put in a third inquiry into an Airbnb site, and I opened up the app to discover that the host had confirmed. I had a place to stay! At long last! I caught a bus up the hill and grabbed lunch at a little café with free wifi. Got ahold of my friend Daniel, who had just been in the city doing a play, and he was kind enough to give me a few recommendations of what to do & where to leave my bags until I could check in at my lodgings. Half an hour later, the Ridiculously Heavy Suitcase was safely tucked away at bag check, and I was on my way.
Thrilled to be in Edinburgh!
I wandered down Princes Street along a beautiful green way past the Sir Walter Scot monument:
I checked out the Scottish National Gallery – they have several important pieces: a Rafael, a few Degas paintings & sculptures, a couple Rodins, Titian, Reubens, Monet, Seurat. There was even a da Vinci on loan from a private collection. I hadn’t seen this Monet before – it has a slightly different aesthetic than most of his other works.
A few more of my favorites for good measure:
After that, it was time to collect my bags, so I did and headed over to my new lodgings off Leith Road. I got there only to find I was staying in the flat of the host’s uncle, who hollered at me for being late, handed me off to a woman who didn’t speak much English, and hustled out the door to let in another lodger at a different location. Um, OK. Nice to meet you too . . . the lady from Spain was really nice and we wrestled with the door knob for a while until we figured out how to lock the thing. She gave me a quick tour of the flat and headed out the door.
I knew I was in trouble the moment I walked in the apartment – a strong scent of cigarette smoke greeted my nose. Being a singer, my system is highly sensitive to irritants. Plus, I have allergies to smoke: being around the smell will give me a raging sinus infection and can set off an asthma attack. Not the best situation for someone singing their way through Europe . . . The scent wasn’t too bad in the room I was to have, and my phone was out of juice, so I decided to at least charge my phone and see how that felt. Ten minutes later my sinuses started to itch, and I knew this wasn’t going to work. The scent was in everything. So I left my phone charging and moved everything else out into the building hallway and waited.
About half an hour later, my phone had enough power to move on, so I left the apartment, locked it up, called the host, and left a message. I called her uncle who owned the flat. Left another message. Called Airbnb customer service in the States, and there I found Angel Nathan. I filled him in on the situation, how all this housing had fallen through, how I would get sick if I stayed in the last booking, and how I was now without a place to stay, in a strange city, with night approaching. He got to work straightaway calling Airbnb hosts in the area – none of them could take me with such short notice, so he set me up in a nice hotel across town, the difference in cost courtesy of Airbnb. I was so happy, so relieved! I sat down at a nice Italian restaurant to celebrate and enjoyed a scrumptious bowl of gnocchi, truffles, arugula, and giant king prawns. Yum!
On the way to pick up the bus, a man from Dallas interrupted me on the street to chat for a moment, and then offered me a ride to the hotel. I wouldn’t take up an offer like that in most situations, but he seemed to be genuine in his intent, and he didn’t set off my warning bells. We spent the next 20 minutes driving across Edinburgh talking about God and salvation. Mostly he did the talking. He is a Christian-converted Jewish man who loves doing kind things for people and helping them find God. I was grateful to have a ride, and to meet someone with such a good heart. Thank you, Paul. More than one angel crossed my path that day.
Finally, finally, I arrived at my lodgings in Edinburgh. The Irish lady at the front desk was so warm and charming. The hotel was covered in ivy, with a beer garden in the back, complete with swing set! My room was comfortable and warm, it was clean, beds were comfy, and the bathroom boasted a massive tub. It was perfect. I got down to thank God for taking care of me, and I couldn’t stop laughing – I would never have splurged so much on a nice hotel, but here I was, after such a housing charade, in the best situation possible. It was awesome! I somehow was able to be calm during this whole fiasco, even going on no sleep the night before. Maybe it’s because I’m on a big adventure trip and open to all the happenings, but I just felt that somehow everything would work out, and it did.
I took a long warm bath and went to bed.