“Sigh, passenger, and soe be gone”

I pulled that line from an epitaph and Glasgow Cathedral. The Scotland chapter of my adventure came to a close today around 2:30pm, when I boarded the Stena line ferry bound for Northern Ireland. I have so many thoughts about Scotland after the last four or so days. Edinburgh is so beautiful, such a mix of all of its historic eras. It’s also so clearly geared towards a high amount of tourism. The city is very clean, very well marked and seems to take every opportunity to highlight it’s past and present. It was also interesting to talk to some locals in the pubs and restaurants about the recent referendum on independence. In Edinburgh, the consensus was: “We voted No, and we aren’t surprised that the No vote went through. Everyone has a great deal of Scottish pride and patriotism, but at the end of the day, there was no real place for sustainability. There was no economic safety net. Independence would have been a disaster.” From my own perspective, Edinburgh has a lot of cultural and spiritual ties to London and England in general.

Then we turn to Glasgow. Glasgow, from the first moment, is a very different climate. Construction cranes dominate the skyline (engaged in both demolition and construction of new structures). “YES” placards, flags, and graffiti are everywhere. There is some Victorian/Georgian influence to the architecture, but it’s a much wider range of types of buildings. It’s a little city, easily walkable (I crossed every planned experience off my list and still had plenty of time for the unexpected). Glasgow felt much more like a typical city where people work hard and go home to their families. It definitely did not seem to have the same practiced “affect” that parts of Edinburgh have, but it had a more subtle charm and spirit all it’s own.

Glasgow as a city voted Yes for independence. That much I heard on the BBC before I ever left home, but she I got to Glasgow and started talking to people, the difference came into focus. Glasgow has been independent, and proud of that independence for most of its existence. Glasgow saw more direct civic actions for pay, more rent strikes, more conscription protests, and more work stoppages than Edinburgh. Glasgow is also a city that has always struggled with poverty. While there was a housing shortage all over the UK after WWII, by the 50s, nearly half of apartments didn’t have bathrooms or hot water in the units. Women went to the wash houses into the 70s. Housing project towers sprung up, only to suffer the same issues as housing projects in the states. There isn’t a lot of love lost between Glasgow, and London, it would seem. There is also tension here. My hosts talked about seeing a large group of National Socialists yelling racist slogans in George Square when it became clear the referendum was lost. Some pubs had signs banning carrying Scottish flags into the bar, while others made a point of redecorating in solely blue and white. On Saturday, nearly a week after the vote, there were groups of people walking around wearing and waving the blue and white Scots flag. Interesting, to say the least.

But, it is a city of great energy and potential-many of the remaining blocks of crumbling housing are being replaced. New businesses and hotels are going into downtown areas, and unemployment is falling. During my time I was able to visit:

  • The West End, and have a lovely toastie and eggs on gf bread at North Star cafe (proper coffee remains elusive)
  • Glasgow Botanic Gardens, where the leaves weed just beginning to change
  • Sauchiehall Street market, where every kind of food was of sale-it was amazing
  • Glasgow Cathedral- the only “Kirk” to survive the destruction of the reformation
  • The Necropolis- endless Victorian merchant cemetery, built in a spiraling pattern covering a high hill. I saw incredible views, and left feeling pro
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One Week In

Good morning from Edinburgh! I woke up this morning thinking about the fact that I’ve been gone exactly one week today, and a new “normal” is setting in. I’m increasingly used to the nightly unpack/repack routine; used to introducing myself to new roommates several times over two or three days, used to being lost and asking random people for directions, and used to literally walking miles and miles every day, until I can’t take another step.

I love Edinburgh. I think if you took Milwaukee, aged it about 600 years, and added a few more cathedrals, Milwaukee would be about the same as Edinburgh. A small city, inexpensive, and pretty friendly as well. I got in on Wednesday night, and I am staying in the loveliest hostel I have ever seen. It’s crazy-like living in a well run yoga studio. Smells a little like sage and incense, soft music playing in all common areas,requires everyone to exchange shoes for slippers at the door, provides free breakfast, and is off the beaten track so that the street is quiet, but still close to the city center. A really excellent choice.

Edinburgh has been similarly lovely over the last few days. The first night I walked around and had a giant bowl of ramen for dinner at Wagamama. This was Wednesday, which started with pouring rain in London, prompting me to pretty much hunker down at Kings Cross station until my train at 2. What sounded boring turned out to be completely great. Things I saw/did at Kings Cross:

  • Watched an eagle hunting pigeons
  • Visited platform 9 3/4
  • Saw a Good Samaritan help a total stranger who was having a seizure (he was fine and walking, ultimately)
  • Browsed multiple bookstores and Harry Potter shops without spending ANY money
  • Ate more Worcestershire flavored potato chips than is healthy, probably.

And so is boarded my train. The last time I took this journey, it was really dark since I left late after class, so it was cool to see more of the countryside and catch passing glimpses of Doncaster, York, and Newcastle. I could see the ocean also for most of the trip, and many sheep. I did fall asleep at one point, which almost caused me to jump off at the wrong station (a little disoriented when the train stopped at Berwick). But it was an easy and pleasant 4 hours.

Yesterday was my big day here. Cold, gloomy, and windy, but I didn’t let that stop me from:

  • Climbing the extinct volcano up to Edinburgh Castle and seeing the Scottish Crown Jewels
  • Visiting the National War Museum (seriously, this Great War stuff has me in tears every, single time.).
  • Walking on the Royal Mile
  • Eating potato leek soup and caramel shortbread at Southern Cross
  • Watching some really terrible street performers
  • Getting coffee at the Elephant House (birthplace of Harry Potter!)
  • Visiting Greyfriars Kirkyard and getting locked in the cathedral, needing rescue from a security guard (oops)
  • Going on a free Ghost Tour (more historical than scary, but I like learning)
  • Sharing some pints and singing along with Scottish folk music at the White Hart.

So I’m fitting a lot in. Today I will try to visit a few more exhibits and eat lunch. I get on the bus to Glasgow at 6, which will mark the end of “revisiting old haunts” and the beginning of “unexplored lands”. I’m still having a blast though, and can’t wait to see what happened next!

No way was I going to pass this up. Even to asking a random to take the picture-wasn't going to pay the £9.50 in the shop.

No way was I going to pass this up. Even to asking a random to take the picture-wasn’t going to pay the £9.50 in the shop.

Roof at Kings Cross

Roof at Kings Cross

Chili ramen with chicken-yummm

Chili ramen with chicken-yummm

Standing on the mountaintop. Don't judge the face-the wind was nuts!

Standing on the mountaintop. Don’t judge the face-the wind was nuts!

Birthplace of Harry Potter!

Birthplace of Harry Potter!

Looking down the Royal Mile to the Firth of Forth. This is what reminded me of Milwaukee, I think.

Looking down the Royal Mile to the Firth of Forth. This is what reminded me of Milwaukee, I think.

A Goodnight Post

After getting very little sleep last night, and a full (and delightful) day of travel to Edinburgh today; I am far too sleepy for a post. So I’ll leave you with these images, and promise full stories to come! Goodnight from Scotland. ~Brianne

Edinburgh Castle by night. Tomorrow, I climb!

Edinburgh Castle by night. Tomorrow, I climb!

My panorama-can't wait until I can share the proper photo  from my Nikon!

My panorama-can’t wait until I can share the proper photo from my Nikon!

Being a tourist

…is not something that comes naturally to me. When I was little, we would visit San Diego and stay with family. We did touristy things (Sea World, Disneyland), but we also did normal things, like cook out, and go to the grocery store, and just go for walks. When I got older, I experienced New York in much the same way-going to the store, making dinner at home, shopping where “locals” shop, and so on. I never stayed in a hotel until I was an adult, and I’ve always really valued quick acclimation to any new place. Also, while I’ve lived a lot of places, I haven’t been on very many non-work related small trips (4 days in a conference center is not traveling). So, this trip is challenging me. Two or three days in a space is not time for me to be a “local”. It pushes me to talk to folks and do things that would normally take weeks to work up to. This is a good thing, but it can also be exhausting. For example, right now I am sitting at a communal dinner table in the hostel with about 8 other people. At least 3 languages are being spoken, and none is English. It’s great because that means I don’t have to talk, just smile. Different throughout the rest of the day. I have been asking directions, learning to use an Oyster card, and generally talking to random people all day.
I’m also being a serious tourist. Objectives, plans. I am being a little spontaneous (mostly when I get too tired to stay on schedule), but I am really worried about my natural shyness overwhelming my desire to maximize every minute. I am sure that will balance out.

Today: Tower of London, Fortnum and Mason, swans in St James park, and accepting tourism.

My London metro card-cheaper bus fares and guaranteed return. Win!

My London metro card-cheaper bus fares and guaranteed return. Win!

London Wall-what remains of the oldest city fortifications.

London Wall-what remains of the oldest city fortifications.

The Tower's landscape is heavily dominated by the WWI memorial poppies. 100 years ago, the war broke out, and more than 888,000 Englishman would die in the "war to end all wars". Each poppy represents one life lost.

The Tower’s landscape is heavily dominated by the WWI memorial poppies. 100 years ago, the war broke out, and more than 888,000 Englishman would die in the “war to end all wars”. Each poppy represents one life lost.

Hard to take a normal looking picture with the sun so bright  but I do love tower bridge.

Hard to take a normal looking picture with the sun so bright but I do love tower bridge.

10 years ago, Halloween was not on the radar. Now, Fortnums makes "exploding" chocolate frogs, and trick filled chocolates. I blame Harry Potter.

10 years ago, Halloween was not on the radar. Now, Fortnums makes “exploding” chocolate frogs, and trick filled chocolates. I blame Harry Potter.

I think they literally go out hunting the minute you order pheasant. Possibly in South Dakota.

I think they literally go out hunting the minute you order pheasant. Possibly in South Dakota.

There will always be an England. And the queen's swans will always be my favorite park feature.

There will always be an England. And the queen’s swans will always be my favorite park feature.

I wandered the tower environs for over five hours today. There was a lot of additional info about WWI, including a re-enactment of the ideological conflict over recruiting soldiers. The exhibits were incredibly evocative, and I found myself in tears more than once, as these cheerful men waved to the video cameras-completely unaware of what was about to happen to them in the trenches…it was a lot to take in. Also I got completely creeped out in Beauchamps tower (where many prisoners have been kept over the centuries), and I could swear I saw a face reflected in a window right after I saw where the little princes we’re discovered under the stairs. Spirits all around today. But it was wonderful, so much has been redesigned an updated since I was last here.

I ate fish and chips from the tower outdoor food court today. That’s also part of why I’m feeling particularly touristy today. It was a deal with your tower ticket, and it was delicious but not my usual route for eating.

After the tower, I took the bus over to Fortnum and Mason. I snagged some tea and jam to bring home, but similar to my Harrod’s experience, the star power was missing somehow. The other thing that could account for it was that the last time I was in these places, it was Christmas time, where everyone goes the extra mile to make magic. Maybe September is just the calm before the storm.

After Fortnum, walking and walking happened again. Partly I needed to think-having a bit of work anxiety for the first time since I left Milwaukee. Partly I think I have that desperate sense that good weather days are slipping through my fingers like a handful of coins, and I don’t want to miss them. So, I sat in St James park and watched the swans. Walked past Buckingham Palace (because why not), got hopelessly lost at Victoria Station (map NOT helpful), and eventually made it back to the hostel. Trying to prioritize one more thing to do tomorrow-my train for Edinburgh leaves at 2! Good night!

Rule, Brittania!

Rule, Brittania!

The Great Escape gets so real

Phew! Depending on how you count, I’ve slept something like four hours out of the last 48. Leaving NYC at 6:30pm, on a flight that ended up being nearly an hour shorter than expected, where they did NOT dim the cabin lights at any point, landing in Shannon which was cute and cozy and completely packed with soldiers and tourists; passing out hard on the flight to London, and then continued adventures! I am beat. But still doing so well.

Getting to London was no problem. For the record, I still have not actually seen Ireland besides the interior of the Shannon airport. We landed in the pitch darkness and then when the sun came up the land was blanketed in fog. I fell asleep as soon as my connecting flight took off and only woke up when we touched down to Heathrow, so-yeah, that grand reveal will have to happen later in the trip.

I love how public transportation is so accessible and easy to use, literally everywhere I have ever been. I am convinced that the public transit haters in the US are simply missing schema, if a system is so easy that, I after no sleep, no caffeine, can successfully navigate the tube, this is an accessible and easy to use system.

I arrived at my hostel, St James, in Earls Court road with no problem. I am also treated to a gorgeous sunny London day-crip and breezy. My room wasn’t ready yet, so I dumped my bags and headed out on the town. The goal was Harrod’s, but I got completely side tracked by a walk down memory lane. I accidentally found myself in front of the Sainsbury’s I used to frequent, took pictures of the Foundation House where we went to class, and wanderd in and out of many of the old haunts.Garfunkle’s is still there, as is the Waitrose I went to on my first frantic night in 2003. I found Partridge’s, home of the $14.00 box of Lucky Charms, and the Sandwich Shop that was always willing to extend credit to broke students. I believe that this is the point where extreme fatigue began to set in-I walked forEVER trying to get to Harrod’s. Which is dumb because I know full well that if I just stay on my own street it drops out right in front of the store. But I kept wandering in circles, getting more frustrated and determined to make it work. Maps did not help, directions did not help. Ah!

I eventually made it. Reveled in the air conditioning, the perfume counters, the evening gowns fit for the red carpet, and wandered the food stalls. Harrod’s is still an icon and likely always will be, but I’ll admit that it wasn’t the mind blowing experience I remember. Possibly I was tired and grouchy, or possibly I am old and jaded. Or a combination. So passes the world.

I caved on budget and took the tube back to my hostel-only 3 stops, but I was so beat down by life at that point. My room was ready (actually somewhat nicer than our house back in the day) and I slept about two hours. Met two of the roommates (there are seven besides me). That was a good and very needed nap.

Around 5:30 I went in search of dinner, fully intending to get chips for he sandwich shop, but they were gone already! Next goal was to go to the Settle inn where I was once employed, but it’s gone too…there’s a Whole Foods in that storefront now…ain’t dere no more. So, I wound up at the Goat (new ownership, sanitized…bummer) but the bangers and mash were amazing, the crier was cold, and the service was friendly. I took a long, meandering walk home, and now I’m about 20 minutes from being down for the count again. Forcing myself into a schedule. So I don’t lose any minutes! That’s what planes and trains are for. Just don’t ask me what day it is, the date, or the time. No idea.

The view from my hostel bed. It's really pretty decent!

The view from my hostel bed. It’s really pretty decent!

This is what I've seen of Ireland so far. Fog, with the suggestion that green might be a thing.

This is what I’ve seen of Ireland so far. Fog, with the suggestion that green might be a thing.

London sunset over Kensington Mews, walking off round one of mashed potatoes.

London sunset over Kensington Mews, walking off round one of mashed potatoes.

Someone in one of these houses was playing the piano. It added some magic to the stillness.

Someone in one of these houses was playing the piano. It added some magic to the stillness.

The Road Leads Ever On…

Fine. I’m a cliche. Or something. But that particular line from Tolkien always becomes my mantra when the travel bug begins to bite. I’m not exactly sure what day or time it’s supposed to be right now, but I do know that I’m wide awake. On Sunday, after a slow start, and family brunch, and a lot of good talk, my cousins dropped me off at JFK. Major shout out to Terminal 5, home of the best salad I have ever consumed in an airport, ever. And Dylan’s Candy Bar. Digression.

I boarded my flight at about 5:45 eastern time, and flew to my layover point in Shannon, Ireland. This is the perfect layover airport-just little, big coffee shop, free wifi. It’s pitch dark, the clock says 6:35am, which makes it, Monday? I slept for about an hour. And I’m wide awake. No idea what time it is at home, or where Shannon actually is on a map. But I’m convinced there’s nowhere I’d rather be.

Not all who wander are lost. #socliche

Engaging in Public Sleeping

Hello! Day 2 of the Great Escape included the opportunity to head to Little Italy for the Feast of San Gennaro. Wikipedia tells me that this has been a thing since the 20s, but it’s only the second time I have been. Today’s excursion did not disappoint. In my 20+ blocks of wandering! I heard some Italian opera and some mandolin music. I watched the assembly of a 12 foot cannoli. I walked past every combination of pasta, sauce, meat, and cheese, and avoided drooling onto anyone directly. I also bought a ravioli cutter and a tiny cheese grater to replace one I recently smashed. The greatest thing I ate was an Italian sub with spicy sausage and grilled peppers and onions. And I hate actually eating onions, but I ate every single bite, while listening to the proprietor tell stories about the old neighborhood, and the time he sold his Honus Wagner baseball card for 2.1 million (this is truth-he pulled the newspaper clipping from the record sale out of his wallet-the clipping included his picture.

I have about 84,000 pictures of food from the day, but for some reason WordPress isn’t letting me upload them just now. Hang in there, and for a sneak peak, follow me on Instagram at RaineanneMKE.

Post festival is where the title of this post comes in. After cultivating patience for a few hours in the sardine-packed crowds, I needed some air and to sit down. I headed for Washington Square Park (always a favorite), which should have been a ten minute walk, but was more like forty minutes, as I got lost three times (food coma setting in) and wandered into the most amazing vintage shop where I bought an authentic Burberry scarf for 20 bucks (score!) and a little retro apron with a butterfly. The second purchase drew the attention of some fantastic fellow-vintage shoppers who pronounced me “Suzy Homemaker” and set about finding me the perfect mid sixties dress to go with it. They were successful, but at a price point of 100.00, it stayed on the rack. But I do love SoHo.

Finally made it to the park sat down against the fountain, and enjoyed the cool spray on my face and arms. The day was swinging between fall crispness and late summer swelter, and I was roasting in jeans and boots at this point. At some point I got tired of being wet, and crossed to the wide stone benches, where I stacked up my bags, leaned back…and totally passed out. One hundred percent by accident. In my defense, it was mid food coma, it was getting cloudy, and it was 4pm. 4pm is when I need to fight every day to keep from passing out on my desk at work. 4pm to me is what 4am is to most folks-prime sleep time. So, I had no shot, basically. On the plus side as soon as I snapped awake and realized what had happened (I slept a good 25 minutes), I was comforted by the sight of a similar woman (in age, dress, and shopping bags) similarly sacked out on the bench next to mine. Clearly, nap time.

Refreshed by my power nap, I spent the next hour or so exploring the Strand bookstore, taking note of titles I’ll take out of the library, and limiting my spending to a copy of Faulkner short stories. Footsore and explored out at this point, I took the subway home. Oh, NYC. You are so loved.