Its funny how easy it is to forget what travelling, or maybe more so backpacking, is like. How could I have ever put my bag away? How could I have forgotten that feeling of stepping off a plane/train/bus and being somewhere completely new? This week long trip to Scotland was the result of one of my quite rare but pretty miserable 'why does france hate me?' days. Having my wallet stolen in Italy turned out to be pretty hideous when faced with re-collecting all my french 'cartes'... time consuming and frustrating, and that is without mentioning the immense rudeness of the staff at my french bank here... so, how to fix it? I discovered some super cheap flights (good old easyjet!) to Scotland. My plan was actually to go to Edinburgh from Lyon but as it happened I flew from Geneva to Glasgow... a bit of a detour!
I love the train trip from Lyon to Geneva - so pretty! Like taking a trip through a million postcards. I arrived in Glasgow at about 10pm and spent quite a bit of time wandering around with my gradually less lovable backpack to find the house of my couchsurfing host. (www.couchsurfing.com for anyone interested in the coolest way to travel!). My host, Adrian, was great! He had cycled from one side of the US to the other, playing scrabble with people along the way. We didnt end up having a match though, clealy I didn't want to embarrass him with my huge scrabble talent...
I spent the next day exploring Glasgow. I can't say I would be rushing back but there were some definite highlight: finding a health food shop that had a HUGE range of gluten free food, the modern art museum, discovering the crazily cheap world of Primark, the hauntingly beautiful neocropolis (spelling??). But definitely the best was the museum of religious art and life - actually the coolest museum I've ever been to. Happened to see it as I was walking into town and popped in to check it out. Covered the 6 world religions - Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, Judaism, Sikhism but was set out in such a cool way to mingle them all together to show not just the differences but any similarities between ways of thinking.
2 days in Edinburgh were enough to convince me that it is definitely the place I want to do my postgraduate degree. Ignoring the minor detail of actually getting into the Uni, I am totally there in a few years time! I loved the castle, so cool to wander around and such gorgeous views of the city! I confess I may have been quite the tourist and went to check out the cafe in which J K Rowling wrote the first of the best books of all time! I couchsurfed again, yet again another amazing CS experience! My host George was more knowledgeable about his city and country than anyone I have ever met before. And anyone who can vividly remember a trip to NZ 20 years later has to be pretty awesome! (Reading the 1988 Lonely Planet for NZ was highly entertaining!!!). Not only did I get a quick tour around the city, numerous bits of advice on where to go and what to see, super interesting historic info on Scotland, hilarious travelling stories but I also was introduced to Irn Bru... classic!
I am now defrosting inside my hostel a few kms outside of Fort William. The train trip here was stunning! And made all the more hilarious by the 3 hours of conversation with a kiwi girl who had booked the opposite seat. Highly serious convo topics including our cravings for pineapple lumps, tim tams, black forest chocolate and cheap sushi. Not to mention the shared frustration at being assumed to be australians... honestly, they are EVERYWHERE!!!!! ahhhh!!!!!!!
I picked this place as it sounded like it had amazing hiking and cycling and other outdoor kinda stuff. Very true, but I didnt quite take into account the famously changeable Scottish weather... this morning I went on a 3 hour walk (an 'improving walk' as my mum would say)- really beautiful with the surrounding mountains (including Ben Nevis - the highest one) but ridiculously cold! I cant say I saw anyone else out walking... maybe the fact that it was pouring with rain alternating with snow and hail the entire time...