Wednesday found us waking in our nasty little hippie hostel, perhaps taking a few minutes longer than normal to sort out time and place. Cold. We opted not to use the hippie cleansing room (as likely so many hippies have done), dressed quickly and packed. We had a mission to accomplish, and this was to escape the Hostile Hostel! Ben had given us the name of the guesthouse in which he’d resided during the previous week, so first a phone box to check on vacancy, followed by coffee and bagels at Elephants and Bagels. Then back to the Hostile, and gave ’em a story of changed plans. Escape! (Renting towels indeed.)
Next came what we would colorfully call “March of the Drenchies” Our new residence was a bit south of Old Town, and a bit west. Of course, it was still raining, but we did finally arrive at our Aaron Guest House (three stars!), whose proprietor was gracious and soft-spoken, and whose clean white towels actually came with the room. Blessed civilization! The interesting thing about such instances is the contrast they provide. You see, after the Hostile Hostel, everyplace we stayed was a bit of “Home Sweet Home”. Contrast is a brilliant intensifier while traveling, and should be acknowledged as such. (Also, shit like that makes for more interesting tales.)
So- then what? We wandered the city. Heading north we sought Dean Village, but aimlessly and meanderingly. Due to the continuance of precipitation, we had both got quite comfortable in our hats. (Always bring a hat when traveling.) Meandering down unknown crescents lined with great stone buildings; a glimpse of the water of Leith, across Dean Bridge on Queensferry… eventually we did find ourselves lost in a bit of unexpected suburban wasteland, including a CostCo or some such nonsense. Wending our way back south and easterly having consulted the map, we realised we were in the middle of yet another day of many miles. As we walked through one of the little village streets, we began to keep an eye out for a suitable place to have a somewhat late lunch. Nothing tempted. We decided, hungry though we were, to keep looking. We were this close to resorting to Cafe Nero (a chain, whose blocky lettering gives the impression they are all named Cafe Nerd, which was of course, what we called them)– when we decided to keep going. This became our theme for the remainder of the trip, for just around the next bend we came upon the Bailie, about which we’d heard good things. Pub Lunch in a lovely below the stairs room; cozy, with dark photo-covered walls, a warm red ceiling and oxblood booths all round- perfect. “Two pints of Tennants, please.”
Again refreshed, we meandered the whole day- getting a feel for the city, seeing Castle Rock from the North side for the first time along Princes Street (stunning), learning that New Town is boring, getting our heads about the layout of this strange and ethereal city. We also chanced upon a lovely old second-story cemetery stashed away at one end of Princes Street. It was filled with obelisks- signs of Templars. (Scotland was, after all, the land to which those remaining fled after King Philip’s wholesale slaughter of them in post-crusades France. Although I think they were still the Knights of the Rosy Cross (Rosicrucians) at the time?- underground to Scotland they went!) We also climbed Calton Hill, site of an observatory and several monuments (one of which remains unfinished), and one of many spots for spectacular views over this enchanting town and its surrounds. All in a chill drizzle, but there is no staying indoors when traveling!
Later- pub dinner of comfort food, and football on the big screen of what would become our local: Bennett’s, of the large and very Prague-minded stained glass windows, (which were, of course, what rightfully drew us to the place.)