12:17 PM, 8/28/06
I got up early Monday morning and, leaving a sleeping Jacob, headed for the train that would take me north to Belfast. Only, after I got all the way across town to the station, I discovered that the departure station was the place from which I’d left. I did an about face and fortunately, the train departure times I’d found were wrong so I had no problem catching the train. I did have a problem because the train departed late, though. The train left Dublin roughly twenty minutes late and guess what, I missed the Ferry in Belfast by fifteen minutes. Awesome. I actually made it fifteen minutes before the ferry to Scotland departed, but they want you there half an hour early. The next ferry didn’t depart for about 5 hours, so I had 4 hours to kill. Oh the fun. I might have had some time to check out the city, but I didn’t have much interest in Belfast and decided to play it safe. I didn’t want to miss the next ferry so instead, I wandered off toward the edge of the city where I found a nice coffee shop to relax in. I’d started reading Neil Gaiman’s American Gods when I departed for Europe and over the course of the train ride and coffee shop time, I made quite a bit of progress in the book. The coffee shop I went to actually served a half decent mocha. I’ve found that few places abroad actually have good mochas. And I’m not really a fan of lattes (which are everywhere…) Anyway, I caught the next ferry without any trouble. I’d considered that I might end up seeing Jacob on this ferry because I suggested that he might want to just leave Dublin later and catch the later ferry, but he didn’t show up. I don’t even know yet whether he’s left Dublin. I guess I’ll know when he shows up here in Edinburgh.
The ferry was huge and had like, three restaurants and two bars on it. I was in desperate need of a real meal (not bread, fruit, and water), so I had some fish and chips and a beer. Okay, so you’re thinking…that’s a real meal? Well it was. The fish was huge, almost as if they’d merely caught a tuna and deep fried the whole damn thing. And it was goood. There was a storm in the distance during the sea voyage, and I saw some huge bolts of chain lightning arcing across the seascape. The Belfast bay area was really quite beautiful and I wouldn’t have minded exploring it, if I’d had the time. The rest of my connections passed fairly easily. I caught a train in Stranaer, the port city in Scotland, and from there headed to Glasgow. I’d originally thought to stay in Glasgow for the night, but I had decided to head on to Edinburgh. The train ride was exquisite. I was riding through the Scottish countryside right at sunset. Scotland was filled with rolling hills, babbling brooks, green knolls, and all the best of literary landscapes. That is to say, everything you’ve ever read in books and poetry about transcendent landscapes, places that ensnare all the senses, it’s true about Scotland. And that was just on the train ride! Eventually darkness descended and I retreated back to my book, which I continued to make progress in. I switched trains at Glasgow, another easy transition, and then finished the journey to Edinburgh without difficulty.
I arrived in Edinburgh about 11:00 at night. Now this posed a slight problem, seeing as I was without my travel guide in a city I knew very little about. I scrounged around for a map and found a information center that directed me to the nearest hostels. I was looking for a particular hostel, Castle on the Rock, or some such, which Duncan had recommended. The information lady knew of it and directed me there…only I got lost. I wandered around a bit until I got my bearings. The gist of it was that I headed up up up. Edinburgh is perched on hills, meaning I climbed a good hundred steps before I came to the high street. It was a beautiful city at night, the cathedrals and gothic buildings seemed to glow of their own volition. The streets were fairly empty, but I felt very safe. One problem I’d already discovered is that I couldn’t understand the Scottish—at all. I mean, if they talked slow, I could get the gist of it, but whenever anyone started talking fast, especially the older folks, it became something like: ehg, mil neyor camn jez cal culnd. Yeah, basically a foreign language. I made it to the hostel and fortunately, they had vacancies. This hotel was great. They had a laundry service, two really big lounges with great features, a nice kitchen, etc. I got settled and then went to the lounge to finish American Gods; I was only about 50 pages from the end. Everyone in the hostel seemed real friendly and acquainted, though after I finished my book, I settled back into bad. A whole day of traveling really tires one out, and I was excited to get out and explore Edinburgh the next day, for it really was the picture of beauty.