Iceland & Scotland Day 2: View From the Top
Daily Mileage: 11.5
Daily Stair Count: 78 floors
Today started off slowly with a leisurely nutella-on-toast-and-tea breakfast in the beautifully sunny dining room. I think perhaps my very favorite part of vacation is getting to sit down for a long breakfast and slowly sip my tea, easing into the day rather than immediately jumping into work or a workout like I do at home. Tongue in cheek, I packed the outfit I bought in Paris when we arrived without luggage, thinking it would be kind of funny to have to wear it again for the same reason. Turns out, it's just as "funny" as I thought it would be.
This was our first chance to see our hotel in the day time and it's quite lovely! Our room is large to accommodate so many people and has 15 foot ceilings with ornate molding and a surprisingly modern wall paper for what feels like a large bed and breakfast. There's also a lovely outdoor patio adjoining one of our rooms providing a wonderful birds' eye view of the neighborhood.
We continued the slow pace of the day by moseying up the street a couple miles to Starbucks in an attempt to wake up the girls. I'd seen a bakery on my way there advertising that "everything is scratch made" so I doubled back once the group made it to Starbucks, searching out some perhaps more authentic local food. The rain storms here are not what I'm used to (in Asheville it either rains for days or doesn't rain for weeks) and about halfway through my brisk walk the skies completely opened up and dumped bucket after bucket of rain. I first thought I could tough out what I (correctly) thought would only be a few minutes of rain, but when you only have one other change of clothes the thought of getting what you're wearing wet is not pleasant. Thus far, everyone I've met here has been incredibly nice and the store owner whose awning I was hiding under proved no exception; he invited me in to wait comfortably inside while he cleaned, loudly whistling along to "School's Out."
Fruit tart and soda bread in hand, I joined the group while we waited for my uncle to arrive. As it seems, none of us are terribly proficient with directions, so finding him and lunch at the same time proved interesting. Lunch was fantastic though - I tried haggis for the first time (in bon bon form) and enjoyed a lovely carrot, coriander and ginger root soup with some sort of highly-recommended lager.
Everyone headed back to the hotel to rest, and restless traveler that I am, I finally got my time to shine, taking the next few hours to explore on my own. We'd seen Arthur's Seat - the pinnacle of a group of hills in the middle of the city, deriving its name from myriad legends about King Arthur - in the distance while walking around so I set out to find it. I had no directions, but luckily it is rather easy to find a large hill in the middle of a city. Climbing it was a different matter, particularly in boots and jeans. I did something that I swore that I would never in my adult life do: I took off my jacket and tied it around my waist to keep from getting drenched in sweat. But climb it I did, and when I finally reached the top, staring down at Edinburgh visible in every direction from my vantage, my first desire was to whoop and yell as loud as I could from this highest height. I decided to avoid the strange looks.
The hike and view from the top was incredible, but the true wildness of it didn't begin until partway down the climb when it began to rain again. I had seen the ominous rain cloud, beautiful in the distance, racing toward us from my perch and had nearly been blown off the rock because of the whipping winds, but had hoped to avoid being in a giant open field without a rain coat or umbrella when it started pouring. I couldn't avoid it, and I'm glad of it because trekking through the meadow to the next peak, peering over ledges to view the charming city surrounded by green hills all in the middle of a downpour seemed like the most Scottish thing I could be doing. Indeed, my favorite city of Paris may make me feel alive, make me wax philosophical and critically analyze art and life, but this Scottish experience made me feel totally free, and for once, my age. It must have rained four separate times while I was atop this mythical land, and each time I got a little zanier, spinning around with my hands out Sound of Music style at the top of the mountain, face turned up to taste the rain, laughing at the adventureness of it. It was all I could do to descend the cliff back to the hustle and bustle.
My phone inexplicably died (at 30% battery life) on my walk back to the hotel but I somehow happened upon my family standing outside a restaurant waiting for me, proving that I may have some luck after all. I got my first taste of Indian food and fell instantly in love, sampling a host of lamb, lobster and vegetarian dishes that I now don't remember the names to. We capped it off with the perfect amount of mango ice cream and hopped (yes, literally hopped) back to the hotel to settle down to sleep. Well, that was a few hours ago, so I guess I'm a bit behind the times. It didn't fully get dark here until at least 11p.m., maybe even later, so it's a good thing I'm a night owl! Off to sleep to rest my boot-sore feet before exploring the old city tomorrow.